THE HINDU

G.SAMPATH

JULY 13 2015

THE VIEW FROM BELOW: “Defining poverty in terms of income limits solutions to those that can raise income.” In the photo, a girl studies at the doorway of her house in Mumbai’s Dharavi slum.
THE VIEW FROM BELOW: “Defining poverty in terms of income limits solutions to those that can raise income.” In the photo, a girl studies at the doorway of her house in Mumbai’s Dharavi slum. / Picture from The Hindu

Or will it be business as usual? Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s reaction to the SECC numbers offer an unambiguous answer: “The way to eliminate deprivation is to achieve rapid economic growth of 8 percent to 10 percent.”

Mr. Jaitley’s words reflect the prevailing wisdom on the best way to battle poverty. Sample these editorials from the business press on the SECC data: “India needs to grow fast…move ever more people from agriculture to industry” says one. Another asserts that “this database provides the strongest foundations…to comprehend the nature of deprivation in different parts of the country. This is the starting point for an understanding of its causes”.

Really? Did we have to wait 67 years, and for this particular set of SECC data, to understand the causes of deprivation in India? Or is it possible that the question is not about understanding causes at all? That what really concerns policy-makers here is not the problem (poverty) but the solution (growth/development)?

The poverty-development tango

Human beings at different points in time have had diverse cultural conceptions of poverty. Not all of them have been negative. Indeed, at a time when India is witnessing a sort of post-modern, pseudo-Vedic revival, it might be pertinent to point out that the sub-continent is home to a long and ancient…continue reading

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