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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What is poverty? What is relation of poverty with development?

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The word DEVELOPMENT has different meanings in different fields. The Dictionary meaning of the word ‘development’ is – the gradual growth of something so that it becomes more advanced and stronger. We may define ‘development’ as -the systematic use of knowledge or understanding gained from research, directed towards production of useful materials, devices, systems, or methods including the design and development of prototypes and processes.According to the National Science Foundation, Directorate of Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences, United States (1996)-The goal of higher living standards achieved through Sustained Economic Growth, and the policies and programmes intended to achieve the goal, are collectively called as development.The Brundtland Commission on Environment and Development reported in 1987- “the present decade (1980s) has been marked by a retreat from the social concerns. Scientists bring to our attention the urgent but complex problems bearing on our survival: a warming globe, threats to the ozone layer, and deserts consuming agricultural land. We respond by demanding more details and by assigning the problems to institutions ill equipped to cope with them. More or less, the story of development is the same till today”. The story of development today is the story of widening gap between rich affluent and the poor. Let us discuss here about the poor and their poverty for it should be the only concern of all and of all the governments.







What is Poverty? Well, a situation in which a person is unable to achieve even minimum basic necessities of life for his living is called as Poverty. In other words-The conditions of having insufficient resources or income, is called as Poverty. In extreme cases, it is the lack of basic human needs such as adequate and balanced food, housing, clothing, clean drinking water, health services etc.

Basic Necessities of Life: The determination of basic minimum necessities is done along two different lines. Along one line the basic necessities are determined as necessities essential for survival. Along the other line, we determine the basic necessities as the standards of living in the community. Here, we are basically concerned with the poverty due to the lack of basic necessities along the first line. The Minimum Basic Necessities for Life are: balanced and adequate amount of food; proper clothing for summer, winter and rainy seasons; proper shelter to protect from adverse conditions of different seasons etc.

Some times it is observed that a section of a large number of people remains deprived of adequate and balanced food; adequate number of clothes; and even poorly built houses. This condition is called as Mass Poverty. About 26 Crore people were recorded as poverty ridden people during 1999-2000.

 Mass Poverty and Poverty-line: There are a number of people who don’t get any food for many days. They usually live on begging. We often see a number of people moving from door to door in urban areas with bowls in their hands. We call them beggars. Beggars and such people who don’t get food at least twice in a day, and who don’t have a shelter for their living are said to be living Below Poverty Line(BPL). There are innumerable families in India living below the poverty line even today.

Destitute or Absolute Poverty: Sometimes, poverty appears in its extreme form and threatens health and lives of people very badly. This type of poverty is called as destitute or absolute poverty. The extreme poverty may be defined as: having an annual income which is less than half of the income level determined by the census. In fact, in comparative terms, poverty is the condition of having fewer resources or less income than others within the society or a country or compared to the worldwide average.

Causes of Poverty

Some of the major causes of poverty are being given below-
Policies of the British People before Independence: Earlier to the British Rule, various types of industries flourished in India. When the British people came, they started discouraging those industries. As a result millions of people became poor and downtrodden.

Excessive Dependence on Agriculture after Independence: Since the British discouraged industries people had no alternative occupation other than agriculture. Since agriculture was not developed by that time, it was it was proved to be a very low income occupation for rural people.

Unemployment and Landlessness: Majority of Indian people are either unemployed or landless. The landless poor are often labourers who do not get enough wages to carry on their living in better ways.

Social Factors: Illiteracy, large size of family, law of inheritance and caste system are social factors that are responsible for prevalence of poverty.

Corruption: The Government of India has implemented many Poverty Alleviation Programmes in the country during last fifty years but most of those programmes could do very little help to the poor due to corrupt practices of programme implementation authorities.

Overpopulation: Overpopulation has raised the demand of resources. But the resources are limited. Production has been raised in different fields. But since there is no end to the growth of population, the poverty is bound to persist.

Unequal Distribution of Resources in the World Economy: It has been observed that resources are unequally distributed throughout the world. The rich consume major amounts of resources than the poor.

Besides the above, there are many other causes of poverty as well. These causes are -inabilities of poor people to meet high standard and high cost of living, lack of  proper education and employment opportunities, environmental degradation , economic and demographic trends, inadequate welfare incentives etc. Effects of Poverty: Effects of poverty are devastating as well as wide ranging.

 Some very remarkable effects of poverty are being mentioned below-
1. Starvation: There are millions of starving people throughout the world. As per estimates between 5 to 20 million people die of starvation per year in the world and  many of these remain children and mothers.

2. Malnutrition: A very common effect of poverty is malnutrition. Almost half of all children under the age of 5 in Ethiopia suffer from malnutrition. Protein Energy Malnutrition (PEM) is the most common disease among the children of developing countries.

3. High Rates of Infectious Diseases: Poverty causes high rates of infectious diseases. These are mainly due to inadequate shelter or housing. Monsoons and hurricanes can destroy weak shelters of the poor. Such people are always prone to various diseases caused by different pathogens (disease causing organisms).

4. Sexually Transmitted Diseases: Poor people are mostly unaware of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD). This is the reason why incidence of AIDS (Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome) among poor people is higher than the average. Poor families cannot afford high fees of doctors and advanced medicines.

5. Mental Illness: Rates of mental illness are higher among poor in many countries. Depression and anxiety are most common disorders associated with poverty. Such people often develop low self esteem and they always have the feeling of worthlessness. Most of such people attempt to relieve feeling of anxiety through the use of mood changing drugs. These people even cannot think of development, discipline or skill.

6. Crime and Violence: Experts are of the opinion that poverty encourages crime and violence. Anger, desperation and need of money for food, shelter and other necessities- all contribute to criminal behaviour among the poor.

7. Disadvantages: Poor people are at a disadvantage in many fields such as education, employment etc. as they have limited income and resources.

Eradication of Poverty

The extreme manifestation of poverty is – hunger. Since the poor have to spend a high proportion of their earning on their food, penury forces them to depend on begging as job opportunities are rare and business demands capital. Such people have to go on without food for many days and many of them die of hunger. Thus, elimination of hunger is the first requirement for the eradication of poverty. But, what needs to be done for the poverty eradication?

There should be a decentralised approach for the implementation of poverty elimination programmes. Think, plan and act locally and support at the national and state levels should be the motto.

“The elected members of the local bodies together with various government departments should form a local level alliance for a healthy and productive life for all’’.

The nutritional needs of an individual should be met from his birth to death. Special programmes for adolcent girls, pregnant women, and nursing mothers, infants of 0 to 2 years and the elderly and the infirm should be continued.


The capacity building in areas such as management, communication and organisational skills with reference to the implementation of the hunger free area programme are essential for irradiating poverty.

For achieving high social synergy and capital, Mahatma Gandhi and Vinoba Bhave advocated the principles of Antyodaya and Sarvodaya. The Governments have initiated many programmes like Sampoorna Gramin Rojgar Yojna, Annapoorna, Antyodaya Anna Yojna, the Universal Noon- meal Programme for School Children  (the Mid- day Meal ) etc. The National Food Guarantee Scheme is serving as an umbrella for all the ongoing programmes. In addition, it provides  food grains for initiating a Nagar Palika Rojgar Yojna as well as for a vide variety of social support initiatives like Food For Health for those suffering from TB, HIV / AIDS, Malaria etc.


Poverty and Affluence
People in developed countries have more wealth and resources than those in developing countries. These people enjoy a very high standard of living. Such people often purchase things that remain in no way essential for their survival. The cost of living of such people remains very high. This type of living is called as affluence. The dictionary meaning of affluence is: the life condition based on a lot of money and a very high standard of living.

The conditions of affluent people and countries depend upon favourable trade practices with the developing world; on larger extent. They are able to get “inexpensive natural resources from poor countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, including oil for power, ores and minerals for manufacturing durable goods, and manufactured goods made by low wage workers in factories operated by multinational corporations. This practice contributes to the dependencies of poor countries while not raising their standard of living. Affluence often leads to unequal distribution of resources in the world economy” (UNDP-2001).

There are some other underlying causes of affluence and they are mentioned below-

(a) Slow growth of population in affluent areas,
(b) High production of food and industrial goods,
(c) High infra-structure needed in development sectors, for example well developed networks of transport and communication, and
(d) Availability of capital and optimum supply of resources.

It has been due to above causes that many societies in the United States of America and Europe have become affluent. Economists say that Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC) are going to become Economic Powers in the near future.

Affluence is good for certain reasons. Affluent countries have powers to purchase resources and goods for their people. But, most of the environmental degradation is said to be caused by affluent societies in the world.

Key Words: development, affluence,starvation, malnutrition,Malaria, Tuberculosis, AIDS, ethiopia,depression, anxiety, UNDP,Antyodaya, mass poverty and poverty line

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