K_understanding Poverty Part I & II Combined | Aids | Poverty

Kirat Narzary (BP/393/2005


New Delhi, May 2009

Understanding Poverty
Poverty can never be actually eliminated 1 and its reasons can be broadly categorized into two: i) There will always be a poorer section (of lower income group) and they could always be regarded as poor in comparison with the higher income group. It can also be termed as the relative poverty as explained by various scholars. Also, the demand for lower order jobs with lower incomes will not easily cease to exist thereby resulting in the continuation of poverty.


The point is that there will remain a disparity in income levels: until and unless there is a massive technological advancement, such as to create machines to do all the lower order jobs for human beings.

Also, there is a problem of identifying 2 or defining absolute poverty or a person with insufficient basic needs. The whole process depends upon what our basic needs really are and of how much it should be (both quantitatively and qualitatively).

There are various theories and models, trying to explain the causes processes of poverty; but it is not necessary that those models are a hundred percent significant ones or that we should follow or depend completely on those models. Models come and go, and theories change too.

1 2

No end to Poverty, Tim Unwin, Journal of Development Studies, Vol. 43, No.5, pg 929 Identifying the Poor, A note on the Nature & Structure of Poverty, Abena D Oduro

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Kirat Narzary (BP/393/2005)

New Delhi, May 2009

the amount of foreign aid 3 to poorer countries seems irrelevant (for example, if a person does not know how to eat with a fork and a spoon, should he be denied of the food?). Unwin cites that poorer countries might have insufficient human capacities or other incapabilities within them, so there’s no point in supplying huge aid to them.

[Tim Unwin’s contradiction on Jeffrey Sachs’ advocation of doubling


Mere incapabilities should not necessarily mean that more funds should not be allocated, and what could be done is the best utilization of those funds. As problem is not with the amount of fund, it is with the procedures of utilizing those funds (which can be rectified).

What our goal should be: • We should aim at providing the basic needs of every citizen of the world instead of defining something as poverty and thus trying to eliminate it. • We should keep in mind that standards and requirements might vary with places and location4 . • If we create opportunities for people and focus at the development of every citizen then poverty as such would seem just as a mere obstacle for human kind.

3 4

pg 947, No end to Poverty, Tim Unwin, Journal of Development Studies, Vol. 43, No.5, The importance of Geography, pg 934,944, No end to Poverty, Tim Unwin, Journal of Development Studies, Vol. 43, No.5,

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Kirat Narzary (BP/393/2005)

New Delhi, May 2009

References: 1) No end to Poverty, Tim Unwin, Journal of Development Studies, Vol. 43, No.5 2) A note on the Nature & Structure of Poverty, Abena D Oduro

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Kirat Narzary (BP/393/2005) 
This is a commentary on articles – • • • •


New Delhi, May 2009 

Conceptualizing urban poverty, Ellen Wratten (emphasizing on characteristics of urban poverty
& poverty alleviation programme approaches).

Making sense of urban poverty, Philip Amis (distinguishing urban and rural poverty

Cities for 21st century people, Mary Racelis (origin & heterogeneous character of urban poor). Introduction & Review (on Poverty), Edwin S Mills & Ernesto M Pernia (measuring poverty &
rural-urban poverty)

An attempt has been made to understand poverty based on the following articles and beyond.

Understanding Poverty Part II
Measuring the intensity and varieties of poverty lies as a major challenge for the persons related to the planning and development decision makers.

.. Poverty is basically the instability to achieve a politically acceptable potential living standard.

But this politically acceptable standard may not necessarily be equivalent or adequate throughout the different places of the world. Identifying poverty on dependency levels of the poor on cash wage is important. Rural poor are more characterized by household consumption and production of agriculture & food, but urban poor are dependent on wage labour to purchase food and the dependency ratio too varies at urban and rural levels. Urban poor at length might have more access to labour opportunities but has lesser access to societal facilities which the rural counterpart enjoys. Also, a significant approach to increase food prices might lead to further complexities at length. Moreover, it is important to note that the poorest urban residents live in self-built, usually illegal housing but many of the smaller towns and settlements do not have development regulations, so it is difficult to categorize urban poverty. The economic definition and the social definition of urban poverty 2 define significantly the implications for poverty measurement & programmes. But, the question does not get answered by


 Concept & Measurement of Poverty, Chapter One, Introduction & Review, Edwin S Mills & Ernesto M Pernia,  page 3.  2  Conceptualizing Urban Poverty, Ellen Wratten, Table 2. 

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Kirat Narzary (BP/393/2005) 


New Delhi, May 2009 

merely citing- ‘in order to help the poor to help themselves.. we need to understand the nature of

entitlements at disaggregated level 3 .
The point is, there may be some of the smart revitalizers 4 who might float out of poverty but not all of them may be able to help themselves. For example, there are roughly 18 million beggars (the worst hit by poverty, deprived of self confidence, shame, self esteem, hope etc.) in India, which is more than the population of its capital. So, are the promotive and the protective 5 policies or the conventional & participatory as well as the integrated approach for dealing with poverty has been able to help the beggars and the shelterless dwellers of the streets? We speak of slums & of the proletariats, 6 but what about the ones who survive at the alms from other income groups. Planning for poor should be focused more on the hole at the bottom of the bucket instead of merely mending the side wall holes. Therefore, eradicating extreme poverty at a mass level would significantly require a broader approach. The economist point of view, the sociological as well as the psychological point of view with regard to the environmental point of view should be clubbed together and readdressed in order to tackle what we term as extreme poverty. Also, the question is not on finding how much truth is there in Racelis’s observation 7 but in finding how the governments could reinforce and sustain for survival as well as incremental progress in the nearby future.

3 4


 Conclusions, Conceptualizing Urban Poverty, Ellen Wratten, page 32.   The Urban Poor as Revitalizers of the City, Cities for Twenty‐First Century People, Mary Racelis, page 6.  5  Making Sense of Urban poverty, Philip Amis.  6  Making Sense of Urban poverty, Philip Amis.  7  Cities for 21st Century People, Mary Racelis. 

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