Rural poverty in India



The number of poor people in India, according to the country’s Eleventh National Development Plan, amounts to more than 300 million. The country has been successful in reducing the proportion of poor people from about 55 per cent in 1973 to about 27 per cent in 2004.

But almost one third of the country’s population of more than 1.1 billion continues to live below the poverty line, and a large proportion of poor people live in rural areas. Poverty remains a chronic condition for almost 30 per cent of India’s rural population. The incidence of rural poverty has declined somewhat over the past three decades as a result of rural to urban migration.
Poverty is deepest among members of scheduled castes and tribes in the country's rural areas. In 2005 these groups accounted for 80 per cent of poor rural people, although their share in the total rural population is much smaller.
On the map of poverty in India, the poorest areas are in parts of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal.
Large numbers of India's poorest people live in the country's semi-arid tropical region. In this area shortages of water and recurrent droughts impede the transformation of agriculture that the Green Revolution has achieved elsewhere. There is also a high incidence of poverty in flood-prone areas such as those extending from eastern Uttar Pradesh to the Assam plains, and especially in northern Bihar.
Poverty affects tribal people in forest areas, where loss of entitlement to resources has made them even poorer. In coastal fishing communities people's living conditions are deteriorating because of environmental degradation, stock depletion and vulnerability to natural disasters.
A major cause of poverty among India’s rural people, both individuals and communities, is lack of access to productive assets and financial resources. High levels of illiteracy, inadequate health care and extremely limited access to social services are common among poor rural people. Microenterprise development, which could generate income and enable poor people to improve their living conditions, has only recently become a focus of the government.
Women in general are the most disadvantaged people in Indian society, though their status varies significantly according to their social and ethnic backgrounds. Women are particularly vulnerable to the spread of HIV/AIDS from urban to rural areas. In 2005 an estimated 5.7 million men, women and children in India were living with HIV/AIDS. Most of them are in the 15-49 age group and almost 40 per cent of them, or 2.4 million in 2008, are women (National AIDS Control Organisation).
Source: IFAD