November 2006

By Abraham M. George

Most Indian rural families have 3-5 children on the average. In some cases, parents of the husband also stay with them. Using 4.5 members per household (very conservative), the family income should be $4.5 per day (if we use $1 per person/day as standard) or $135 per month (Rs.6100). If we use $2 per person/day (broader definition of poverty), the family monthly income should be Rs.12,200.

Here below is the house-to-house survey conducted during October-November 2006 of two reasonably “prosperous” villages close to Shanti Bhavan by our Baldev staff. Remember, these two villages have several members employed at good wages at Shanti Bhavan and our farms. Most other surrounding villages are much poorer.

Using the $1 per day yardstick, the number of families below Rs.6,100 in monthly income is 86-90%.  Using $2 yeardstick, it is 93-96%. These figures are likely to be better than the national average.

It is difficult to measure who is eating what, and then calculate their caloric value.  The government is trumpeting the country as a global super power -- or soon to be one. It should then follow some international standards. 

For now, the government should just measure the income of individuals/families.  Tell us how many people are below $0.50, $1.0 and $2.0 per day.  Leave the definition of poverty to others to decide. We don't want the government to manipulate the statistics.

Following is the income data for the nearest two villages, Baliganapalli and Deveerapalli, in Tamil Nadu, India.

No Particulars Baliganapalli Deveerapalli
1. population 618 964
2. total no. of families 135 205
3. family income of Rs.12000 or more 9 7
4. family income of Rs.6000 or more 19 22
5. family income below Rs.600 116 183

What can we conclude from this about the national poverty level for rural India where some 750 million people live? Judge for yourself.

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