The Planning Commission of India, in its latest poverty estimates, has claimed that the number of poor Indians – both in urban and rural areas – has declined substantially between the periods of 2004-05 to 2009-10, but it has admitted that Muslims still are the leading religious community in urban poverty at the national level, and in rural poverty in many states.
According to the Poverty Estimates for 2009-10 released on 19th March 2012, in urban areas, the highest number of poor people are Indian Muslims. The Christian community has the lowest number of poor in urban India. This was the first time that the Planning Commission had released poverty estimates also on the basis of religious category, even though data from only few states have been released for this category.
The Commission’s report claims that all-India poverty has declined by 7.3 percentage points from 37.2% in 2004-05 to 29.8% in 2009-10. The urban poverty came down by 4.8 percentage points from 25.7% to 20.9%, while the rural poverty has declined by 8.0 percentage points from 41.8% to 33.8%. But it seems the decline has not passed through the Muslim community as they are still leaders in urban poverty and also in many states in rural poverty.
As per the Planning Commission’s figures on poverty and inequality, poverty ratio in urban areas at the all-India level is highest for Muslims (33.9%) i.e. every third Muslim in urban India is poor. And the Tendulkar Committee, on whose methodology the poverty estimates were made both in 2004-05 and 2009-10, had set the cut-off mark for poor in 2006 as one who earns Rs 20 in urban areas and Rs 12 in rural areas.
Some states have lower than the national urban Muslim poverty percentage. Rajasthan has got 29.5% of poor Muslims in urban areas while West Bengal has 34.9%. But the situation is disturbing not only in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, but in Modi-led Gujarat which is considered as the most developed state of India.
The urban areas of “developed” Gujarat has 42.4% poor Muslims while the national Muslim urban poverty percentage is 33.9%. Almost 50% of Muslims in urban areas of Uttar Pradesh are poor, but “fast developing” Bihar of Nitish Kumar is ahead of UP. The figure for Bihar is 56.5%. At the national level, poverty is at its minimum (12.9%) among the Christian community in urban India.
The poverty figure of Muslims in rural areas is also quite disturbing. Assam has got almost 53.6 % of the total Muslim poor in rural parts of the Congress ruled state. In rural UP, the figure for poor Muslims is disturbing- 44.4%, whereas the figure for West Bengal is 34.4% and for Gujarat, it is 31.4%.
At the national level, Sikhs have the lowest number (11.9%) of poor people in rural areas.
The most disturbing part of the story is that this is the number of poor Muslims when one takes the definition of poor as somebody who manages his/her daily life with Rs 32 or less.
According to the Planning Commission of India, if you are earning more than Rs 32 per day, you are not poor. The Commission had come under attack over the Rs 32 per capita per day cut off for poverty line. In October 2011, the Planning Commission had made this definition of poor in an affidavit it submitted in the Supreme Court. It said that people consuming items worth more than Rs 32 per day in urban areas (Rs 26 in rural areas) are not poor.
The Commission had made this cut-off mark on the basis of the Tendulkar Committee poverty cut-off mark of Rs 20 per day in urban area and Rs 12 in rural area in 2006.
(Reported by Mohammad Ali, TwoCircles.net)