New Census Reveals Depth of Poverty in India
According to India’s most recent Socioeconomic and Caste Census (SECC), the extent of poverty in India could be worse than ever before.

A total of 300 million Indian households were surveyed in this census, and 73 percent of those households are in small, rural villages. Of these villages, those who have a job that provides a stable salary make up 10 percent. Those who can afford to pay taxes or own a car make up only 5 percent and 2.5 percent, respectively.

This data solidifies the fact that roughly one-third of the world’s poor currently live in India.

“It is our firm belief that the member countries will not only overcome the endemic poverty in the region but will in the coming years develop the capacity to address all problems relating to poverty,” said SECC Minister of State of Rural Development Sudarshan Bhagat.

In the meantime, those problems are still piling up. According to the SECC, literacy rates in rural India are disheartening, with 35.7 percent of residents illiterate and only 3.5 percent of students graduating from school.

The SECC data, however, is not without its flaws. The data is not quite as concrete as what might be found in a more formal federal survey, but it does provide the most cohesive look at poverty in the country published in recent years.

“We should beware of any illusion that SECC data can be used for the purpose of drawing a line between poor and non-poor households,” said development economist Jean Drèze. “There are fundamental, conceptual and practical difficulties with doing that on the basis of proxy indicators, even with good-quality data.”

According to a different study, a report made by India’s Planning Commission, 363 million Indians, or 29.5 percent of the total population, were living in poverty between 2011 and 2012. Even though this data is a few years old, it does not paint a much brighter picture of the current state of poverty in India. For now, the SECC report is the best bet.

“Quite likely, the SECC dataset is more reliable than earlier Below Poverty Line (BPL) surveys and could be well used, for pro-active identification of people who need social security pensions, housing subsidies and so on,” added Drèze.

– Alexander Jones

Sources: Economic Times, CNN, Huffington Post
Photo: Deccan Chronicle

Voices of the HungryIf you read this blog often, you will have realized that we like to use a lot of stats. Statistics help us to conceptualize an issue; they help us better understand what we are reading about and they are just more interesting. Statistics regarding food security are also extraordinarily important to the professionals that are working to address issues of hunger and food insecurity.

The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is working to find a more efficient way to gather reliable information and stats about food security and world hunger. Much of the verified information that is used today is old data from two to five years ago. This data, just like data from the U.S. national census is so rarely collected because of the immense effort required to reach out to the hungry and appropriate officials around the world. Today, the FAO is working on a project titled “Voices of the Hungry” that aims to gather data about food security and hunger much, much faster than traditionally. Voices of the Hungry involves surveying candidates with audio recordings over the phone as well as in person. These interviews will offer more than simple statistics; they will also record the human stories and give greater insight into the problems of each region. FAO is partnering with Gallup to help make the program a success and will be testing the process in Angola, Ethiopia, Malawi, and Niger.

When the Voices of the Hungry program is fully operational, it will only be 3 months between the date of an interview to the final data being analyzed and organized with information from 150 countries. Such a change in the accuracy and quickness with which we can collect information will be very helpful in the quest to fight world hunger.

– Kevin Sullivan

Source: Voice of America