Is India doing well in poverty reduction in the Himalayan states?
By K R Sudhaman
Niti Aayog has recently come out with a poverty index, which said 13.5 crore Indians escaped multi-dimensional poverty in five years and that there was a steep decline in the number of multi- dimensionally poor from 24.85 per cent to 14.96 per cent between 2015-16 and 2019-21. Rural areas saw the fastest decline in poverty from 32.59 per cent to 19.28 per cent. The report claimed that India was on track to achieve sustainable development goals ahead of the 2030 deadline.
This is the second edition of the National Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) and measures simultaneous deprivations across the three equally weighted dimensions of health, education, and standard of living that are represented by 12 UN’s sustainable development goals- aligned indicators. These include nutrition, child and adolescent mortality, maternal health, years of schooling, school attendance, cooking fuel, sanitation, drinking water, electricity, housing, assets, and bank accounts. Marked improvement is witnessed across all the 12 indicators.
According to the Report, rural areas witnessed the fastest decline in poverty from 32.59% to 19.28%. The fastest reduction in the proportion of multidimensional poor was observed in the laggard States of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Rajasthan. Between 2015-16 and 2019-21, the MPI value has nearly halved from 0.117 to 0.066 and the intensity of poverty has reduced from 47% to 44%. Significantly Bihar continued to have the largest number of people living in poverty at a little over 51 per cent followed by Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh. The Lowest incidence of Poverty was recorded in Kerala followed by Puducherry, Lakshadweed, Goa and Sikkim. Among the Large states Tamil Nadu has done reasonably well.
Among the Himalayan states, Sikkim had the least percentage of people below poverty. Himachal Pradesh and Tripura, were the other Himalayan states where the poverty index showed that the percentage of population below poverty was less than 10 per cent. Other areas in the Himalaya region like Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh, Manipur, Uttarakhand and Mizoram had poverty below 20 per cent. Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh had people living below poverty in the range of 20 to 30 per cent. But Meghalaya and Assam were the worst among the Himalayan states with incidence of poverty in the range of 30-40 per cent.
From this one thing is very clear that higher the literacy rate, the lower the incidence of poverty. That included North Eastern states. This is because Female literacy in particular improves the quality of life, thereby improving quality of health and poverty reduction. Meghalaya has been listed as the poorest in the Northeastern region. It was 32.67% in Meghalaya. Assam ranks as the sixth poorest with 32.67%, followed by Nagaland (10th with 25.23%), Arunachal Pradesh (11th with 24.27%), Manipur (14th with 17.89%), Tripura (16th with 16.65%) and Mizoram (22nd with 9.80%). Sikkim (3.82%), next only to Kerala. Meghalaya with 37.05% also has the tenth- highest percentage of malnourished people among all the states.
Except for Assam (39.67%) other states of the North East fare comparatively better than Meghalaya in the nutrition aspect. On the child & adolescent mortality aspect, Meghalaya (3.10%) occupies the sixth- highest position among states in the country.
Among the NE states, Nagaland (33.06%) has a figure worse than Meghalaya. The state is second to Bihar when it comes to percentage of population deprived of years of schooling. Meghalaya’s figure stood at 19.71% against Bihar’s count of 26.27%. In terms of the percentage of population deprived of school attendance the state has the ninth- highest figure in the country with 5.40%. Significantly, the report states that 69.20% of the population in Meghalaya is deprived of cooking fuel while 8.10% of the population does not have electricity connection as per the provisional estimates (2019-20) of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS).
Also, 23.60% of the population in Meghalaya, the poorest, does not have access to drinking water (2019-20 estimates) which is the second highest in the country. As much as 55.90% of the population in the state does not have housing facilities. While 29.88% of the population (second highest in country) are deprived of assets, Meghalaya also has the fourth-highest percentage (9.10%) of population without a bank account.