Poverty Eradication – Definition, Debates, etc.

About 41.5 crore Indians out of multi-dimensional poverty since 2005-06


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Multi-Dimensional Poverty Index

Mains level: Persistence of acute poverty in India


About 41.5 crore people exited poverty in India during the 15-year period between 2005-06 and 2019-21, out of which two-thirds exited in the first 10 years, and one-third in the next five years, according to the global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI).

What is global MPI?

  • The global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) is an international measure of acute poverty covering over 100 developing countries.
  • It complements traditional income-based poverty measures by capturing the severe deprivations that each person faces at the same time with respect to education, health and living standards.
  • The global MPI was developed by OPHI with the UN Development Programme (UNDP) for inclusion in UNDP’s flagship Human Development Report in 2010.
  • It has been published in the HDR ever since.


Multidimensional poverty in India: Major improvements


  • The report shows that the incidence of poverty fell from 55.1% in 2005-06 to 16.4% in 2019-21 in India.
  • Deprivations in all 10 MPI indicators saw significant reductions as a result of which the MPI value and incidence of poverty more than halved.
  • Improvement in MPI for India has significantly contributed to the decline in poverty in South Asia.
  • It is for the first time that it is not the region with the highest number of poor people, at 38.5 crore, compared with 57.9 crore in Sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Bihar, the poorest State in 2015-2016, saw the fastest reduction in MPI value in absolute terms.

Long way towards alleviation

  • Despite the strides made, the report notes that the ongoing task of ending poverty remains daunting.
  • India has by far the largest number of poor people worldwide at 22.8 crore, followed by Nigeria at 9.6 crore.
  • Two-third of these people live in a household in which at least one person is deprived in nutrition.
  • There were also 9.7 crore poor children in India in 2019-2021 — more than the total number of poor people, children and adults combined, in any other country covered by the global MPI.

Why multi-dimensional poverty does persist in India?

Poverty is not just the absence of income, money and/or money-like resources required to meet needs.

  • Multiple disadvantages: A person who is poor can suffer multiple disadvantages at the same time – for example they may simultaneously have:
  1. Poor health or malnutrition
  2. Lack of clean water or electricity
  3. Poor quality of livelihood options
  4. Little/No schooling
  5. Disempowerment
  6. Threats of violence
  7. Climate change vulnerability etc.

Other factors include:

  1. Limited financial resources
  2. Material deprivation
  3. Social isolation
  4. Exclusion and powerlessness
  5. Physical and psychological ill-being
  • Multiple dimensions: Focusing on one factor alone, such as income, is not enough to capture the true reality of poverty. National MPI ensures a holistic approach towards defining poverty at the national level.
  • More comprehensive: MP measures can be used to create a more comprehensive picture. They reveal who is poor and how they are poor – the range of different disadvantages they experience.
  • Better targeting: As well as providing a headline measure of poverty, multidimensional measures can be broken down to reveal the poverty level in different areas of a country and among different sub-groups of people.
  • Priority definition for target groups: It offers statistics that determine the national priorities by using a set of dimensions, indicators with respect to the urban and rural areas of India along with an indicator-wise deconstruction and breakdown.

Various govt. interventions to for poverty alleviation

(I) Food Security

  • National Food Security Act 2013 (also ‘Right to Food Act’): It aims to provide subsidized food grains to approximately two thirds of the country’s 1.2 billion people.

(II) Employment and Skilling

  • National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM)Ministry of Rural Development started NRLM 2011 to evolve out the need to diversify the needs of the rural poor and provide them jobs with regular income on a monthly basis.
  • Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) – In 2005 Ministry of Rural Development initiated MGNEREGA to provide 100 days of assured employment every year to every rural household. One-third of the proposed jobs would be reserved for women.

(III) Income Support

  • PM Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY): The Ministry of Finance in 2014 initiated PMJDY that aimed at direct benefit transfer of subsidy, pension, insurance, etc., and attained the target of opening 1.5 crore bank accounts. The scheme particularly targets the unbanked poor.
  • PM Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM KISAN): PM KISAN is an initiative by the government of India in which all farmers will get up to ₹6,000 per year as minimum income support.

Various challenges

  • Pauperization: Every year a huge number is added to the population pool of the country. To exemplify, this pandemic has led to severe pauperization of migrant workers.
  • Regional divide: Incidence of extreme poverty continues to be much higher in rural areas than in urban areas.
  • Jobless growth: Despite rapid growth and development, an unacceptably high proportion of our population continues to suffer from severe and multidimensional deprivation.
  • Inadequate resources: The resources allocated to anti-poverty programmes are inadequate and there is a tacit understanding that targets will be curtailed according to fund availability.
  • Implementation bottlenecks: Lack of proper implementation and right targeting has been legacy issues in India. There has been a lot of overlapping of schemes.



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