ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Avoidable Controversy on Multidimensional Poverty

Given three alternate approaches to projecting poverty figures— (i) ignoring the impact of COVID-19, (ii) including it fully, and (iii) excluding only the peak impact—NITI Aayog choosing the data set that excludes the peak months of COVID-19 in 2020, as has been done in the National Family Health Survey-5, seems appropriate. However, any attempt to explain poverty reduction in a year in terms of developments or programmatic interventions in that year is unlikely to go unchallenged.



The report titled, National Multidimensional Poverty Index: A Progress Review, released by the NITI Aayog in July 2023 had recorded a sharp decline in the percentage of the multidimensionally poor in India from 25% to 15%, resulting in 135 million people exiting the poverty trap between 201516 and 201921. This was generally accepted in the policy domain as well as academia, despite the generic scepticism regarding the subjectivity in choosing the indicators (in a general equilibrium frame, all indicators can be viewed as input or outcome indicators of development), their weightages and sources of data. This was partly because the global report released by the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) had indicated a similar decline in poverty in India in its report, Global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI): Unpacking Deprivation Bundles to Reduce Multidimensional Poverty, released in October 2022, based on the same data set with similar methodology. Both reports had noted that the rate of reduction in poverty during this period was higher than that during the preceding decade. This is being used as evidence of the great success of the present government in poverty reduction.

To emphasise and flag the point that poverty reduction has been sharper during the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, the NITI Aayog has released a discussion paper titled Multidimensional Poverty in India since 200506, showing that multidimensional poverty has declined from 29% in 201314 to 11% in 202223, with about 248 million people escaping poverty in the nine years of the present rule. As no recent data on the selected indicators are available, the computations have been done through extrapolation and interpolation of the available data from the reports of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS). This, expectedly, has raised eyebrows for the assumptions underlying the statistical exercise.

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Published On : 9th Mar, 2024

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