India and The Poverty Index

Democracy Apr 09, 2021

“India added 75 million people to poverty, accounting for 60% of the rise in poor populations globally.”

According to a recent study by the Washington-based Pew Research Center, India contributed almost 60 per cent of the rise in global poverty in 2020.  The report, published March 2021, is based on World Bank estimates of the impact of COVID-19 on economic growth.

In India, the lockdown caused by the Coronavirus pandemic included the shutdown of most economic activities, job losses and drastic falls in incomes, resulting with the country plunging into a deep recession.

The study said, “India seems to be the worst-hit country in South Asia, both in terms of contracting GDP and the sharp rise in the number of its poor.”

The study by Pew Research Center also compared the impact of the pandemic on the economy in China and India. While China’s gross domestic product (GDP) swiftly rebounded post the initial drop on account of the pandemic in 2020, India’s GDP experienced a detrimental collapse during the last fiscal year, but is projected to revive in 2021-22.

The survey follows the standard international definition of those in poverty consisting those earning a daily income of $2 or less.

India’s middle class (comprising those earning between 700 and 1,500 rupees per day) may have shrunk by a third due to 2020’s pandemic-driven recession; with about 32 million people moving down the social ladder. The lower middle income category lost 35 million people. Simultaneously, the number of “poor” people, (comprising those earning less than 150 rupees per day), more than doubled in number. Additionally, there was a loss of 7 million people from the upper middle class, and a drop of 1 million from the count of high-income earners.

It is evident that the greatest burden of the COVID-19 pandemic has fallen on the global poor. And in India, “The unplanned abrupt announcement of the lockdown was a death knell for an already bad economy,” said Father Irudaya Jothi, head of the Right to Food & Work Campaign in West Bengal.

Along with this huge blow to the Indian poverty index; the Global Hunger Index 2020 ranks India 94 out of 107 countries, placing it in the group of nations where the risk of hunger is “serious”.

The covid crisis in India has undone years of progress in combating poverty and also reversed several years of mostly consistent progress in drawing those in lower and lower middle income groups into the country’s middle class, in the continuous effort of closing the gap.

India in particular is currently seeing an alarming rise in Covid cases resulting in increased stress on its healthcare system and renewed restrictions and lockdowns. This is predicted to lead to a significant downward revision in India’s growth forecast for the current fiscal year.

On the other hand India has fallen 28 spots to rank 140th among 156 countries on the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap index. “The index benchmarks the evolution of gender-based gaps among four key dimensions – Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival, and Political Empowerment – and tracks progress towards closing these gaps over time,” the World Economic Forum said in its Global Gender Gap Report 2021, released on 30th March.

The World Economic Forum’s report said, “As the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be felt, closing the global gender gap has increased by a generation from 99.5 years to 135.6 years.”

The pandemic has truly hindered progress in our country as a whole, inadvertently affecting the lives of citizens individually and as a collective.

This article has been written by Kyra Songadwala for The Paradigm.

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