India has made momentous progress in reducing multidimensional poverty with its incidence almost halving between 2005-6 and 2015-16, climbing down to 27.5 per cent from 54.7 per cent, according to estimates from the 2018 global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI).
"In India, the first country for which progress over time has been estimated, 271 million people moved out of poverty between 2005-06 and 2015-16. The poverty rate here has nearly halved, falling from around 55 per cent to around 28 per cent over the 10-year period," said the estimates released on Thursday by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI).
Among South Asian countries, only Maldives has a lower headcount ratio than India at 1.9 per cent, with Nepal (35.3), Bangladesh (41.1), and Pakistan (43.9) having higher incidences of multidimensional poverty.
According to a UNDP statement, though the traditionally disadvantaged groups – across states, castes, religions, and ages -are still the poorest, they have also experienced the biggest reductions in MPI through the decade, showing that they have been "catching up".
It said this is in line with global trends, where deeper progress among the poorest groups is reflected in the global MPI being cut by half.
The release said that pockets of poverty are found across India, but multidimensional poverty is particularly acute — and significant — in the four states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. These accounted for 196 million MPI poor people — more than half of all MPI poor in India.
But there was also progress. Jharkhand made the biggest strides among all states in reducing multidimensional poverty, with Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, and Nagaland only slightly behind.
Delhi, Kerala and Goa have the lowest incidence of multidimensional poverty.
Across nearly every state, poor nutrition is the largest contributor to multidimensional poverty. Not having a household member with at least six years of education is the second largest contributor. Insufficient access to clean water and child mortality contribute least. Relatively fewer people living in poverty experience deprivations in school attendance – a significant gain.
The MPI looks beyond income to understand how people experience poverty in multiple and simultaneous ways. It identifies how people are being left behind across three key dimensions: health, education and living standards, and 10 indicators – nutrition, child mortality, years of schooling, school attendance, sanitation, cooking fuel, drinking water, electricity, housing and assets.
The 2018 report, which is now closely aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals, cover almost three-quarters of the world's population.
Despite the massive gains made in reducing multidimensional poverty, 364 million Indians continue to experience acute deprivations in health, nutrition, schooling and sanitation.
Globally, around 1.3 billion people live in multidimensional poverty, which is almost a quarter of the population of the 104 countries for which the 2018 MPI is calculated. Of these 1.3 billion, almost half — 46 per cent — are thought to be living in severe poverty and are deprived in at least half of the dimensions covered in the MPI.
"Although the level of poverty – particularly in children — is staggering so is the progress that can be made in tackling it. In India alone some 271 million have escaped multidimensional poverty in just 10 years," said Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator.