The number of Indians living under the poverty line had increased even before the COVID-19 pandemic caused the economy to contract to 7.1 per cent, further leading to job losses and shutting down of factories and establishments.
As per the Periodic Labour Force Surveys (PLFS) data for 2019-20, the number of people living under poverty line in the country increased from 269.8 million in 2011-2012 to 348 million in 2019-2020. The PLFS data is compiled by the Union ministry of statistics on a regular basis.
The number of people living in poverty declined between 2004 and 2011-2012, but began to increase once again. Between 2004 and 2005 the number of people living in poverty was 407.2 million and this declined to 269.8 million in 2011-2012. But in 2019-2020, the total has once increased to 348 million.
Indian economy has been slowing for nine quarters prior to the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic. NSO’s PLFS shows that unemployment reached a 45-year high in 2017-2018.
Further, poverty showed a declining trajectory from 1973 to 2012. Since India started collecting data on poverty, incidence of poverty has always fallen. As per Lakdawala Poverty line, Poverty was 54.9 per cent in 1973-1974, 44.5 per cent in 1983-1984, 36 per cent in 1993-1994 and reached 27.5 per cent in 2004-2005.
Experts say economic growth had been on the decline before the pandemic and the people on the margins have been hit very badly.
There has been a rise in incidence of poverty since 2011-2012 in consistent with NSO’s leaked CES data for 2017-2018. As per the leaked data, rural consumption between 2012 and 2018 had decreased by 8 per cent, while urban consumption had increased by 2 per cent. By 2019-2020, poverty had increased in the rural as well as urban areas. Rural areas witnessed the highest increase from 25 per cent to 30 per cent.
The rural part of the country has been hit worse than the urban areas, as per the PLFS data. While the number of rural people living in poverty in 2011-2012 was 216.70 million, the same increased to 270 million. In urban areas, the number of people living below poverty was 53.1 million in 2011-2012 and the same has increased to 71 million in 2019-2020.
Economists as well as political leaders want the NDA government to provide enough money in the hands of poor people to make them spend.
“India is back to being known as a country with mass poverty. After steady decline between 2004 and 2012, poverty has since risen from 21.9 per cent to 27 per cent (2019). From 27 crore to now nearly 35 crore people are struggling under poverty. Cash transfers and free food kits a must in the immediate,” tweeted CPI (M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury.