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The Number of Poor in India

The Head Count Ratio is the number of people estimated as the proportion of people below the poverty line. When a comparative analysis of the poor and the people below the poverty line is then, it becomes easier to identify the areas and the number of poor who reside in them. We can also estimate if poverty has reduced over the years.

The Planning Commission gives the official data about poverty to the public. The consumption expenditure collected by the National Samples Survey Organization (NSSO) is the basis for the estimation of poverty. The proportion of the poor in India during 1973-74 was more than 321 million people. This came down to around 260 million in 1999-2000. In 1973-74 55% of the total population was poor out of which 80% resided in the rural areas. In 1999-2000, the percentage of poor was 26% and the percentage of those living in rural sectors was 75%. The poverty in rural sector has shifted to the urban sector. In 1999-2000 the absolute number of rural poor decreased but the urban poor increased. The overall poverty ratio has decreased but the nature of decline is not very healthy because it's slower than the absolute number of poor in the country. The gap between the absolute number of poor in the two sectors did not reduce till 1999-2000 whereas the gap in case of the ratios has been the same.

Five states Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Orissa account for 70% of the poor in our country. In 1973-74 half the population of all the larger states was below the poverty line but in 1999-2000 just Bihar and Orissa are in the same level. These two states have reduced their share of the poor but not to the extent of other states. Gujarat had reduced the poverty percentage from 48% in 1973 to 15% in 2000. West Bengal reduced its poverty percentage from 62% to 27% during this period.

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