Ending Ultra Poverty in India


    In News

    • According to the World Bank Poverty and Shared Prosperity Report, Extreme poverty was expected to affect between 9.1% and 9.4% of the world’s population in 2020. 

    SECC Data

    • The most recent frame of reference is the 2011 Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) data focussed on looking at multiple deprivations. 
    • SECC 2011 captured data on the socio-economic status of 17.97 crore rural households of which 0.16 Cr. (0.91%) households are identified as poorest of the poor and were automatically included on the basis of the number of deprivations faced by them. 
    • The challenge with using the SECC 2011 data is its datedness against the inevitable population growth and shifts that have taken place over the last decade. 

    What is Ultra-Poverty?

    • The term itself was coined by researcher Michael Lipton.
    • Ultra poor are those who spend 80 per cent of their total expenditures on food and cannot attain 80 percent of their standard caloric needs.
    • They tend to be food insecure, living on less than 2 meals a day. 
    • Malnutrition exacerbates illnesses that further drain resources, leading to borrowings from exploitative moneylenders. 
    • Different from Poor: The ultra-poor have many significant differences from the poor as the households living in ultra-poverty are tied to:
      • Unpredictable availability of wage labour, 
      • Own few or no assets of even a non-durable nature, 
      • Have limited livelihood prospects and 
      • Are socially, economically, and geographically isolated. 
    • Termed as: Ultra poor are variously referred to as ‘extreme poor’, ‘ultra-poor’, ‘poorest of the poor’ and, often, interchangeably.

    Challenges for Ultra Poor

    • Food insecurity, 
    • Poor health, 
    • Social stigma, 
    • Limited skills, assets or savings 

    Government Initiatives

    • Government programs for the poorest of the poor (PoP) have evolved context specific strategies for targeting and identifying the ultra-poor. 
    • Bihar, through its State Rural Livelihood Mission, is implementing the ‘Satat Jivikoparjan Yojana’ program to graduate 2 lakh households from ultra- poverty.
      • These households are being identified as toddy tapper families, women-headed households from Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribes and single women-headed households. 
    • In Jharkhand, the special project UDAAN works with Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTG) who are characterized by declining or stagnant population, as undertaking pre-agricultural activities and largely dependent on forest-based livelihoods, with very low levels of literacy and living in remote and scattered geographies. 
      • The Jharkhand State Livelihood Promotion Society (JSLPS) has initiated work with PVTGs and other ST/SC communities using the graduation approach in the 3 districts of Palamu, East Singhbhum and Godda, with the technical support of The/Nudge Institute. 
      • The program will be evaluated extensively for impact, effectiveness, and durability over the next 3 years and subsequently scaled-up. 
      • Building on these experiences, with the endgame of eliminating ultra-poverty in India, would undeniably contribute towards India’s journey in becoming a developed country.
    • Governments of Kerala and Andhra Pradesh have targeted the poorest of the poor through convergence programs like the Attapadi program with the Irula and Muruga tribal and Kurumba PVTG communities, and the Unnathi program that continues to serve the PoP among the SC/ST community. 
    • Similar efforts are being made with Vantangia and Sawariya communities, in Uttar Pradesh

    Solution: Graduation Approach

    • It is a tested and evidence-driven approach to ‘graduate’ the poorest of poor out of ultra-poverty.
    • It is based on the premise that special multifaceted and sequenced interventions are required before these households can join any large-scale savings and credit based or market-oriented livelihoods programs. 
    • It is a comprehensive, time-bound and sequenced set of interventions that aim to graduate people from ultra-poverty to sustainable livelihoods.


    Way Ahead

    • The policymakers and practitioners in India should focus on how to identify and size the ultra-poor in a country with such diverse contexts of marginality. 
    • Government should ensure that government safety net programs, and large-scale government livelihood programs that are targeted at the poor reach the ultra-poor and the most vulnerable as well. 
    • There should be ways that  market-based solutions also reach the ultra poor.
    • There is a need for a special strategy for addressing the issues of the ultra-poor communities on account of their particular and multidimensional deprivations, as also the need to involve the community-based organisations for the final vetting of the identified households.

    Charcha Programme

    • ‘Charcha’ has served as a platform for all stakeholders in India’s development to come together and chart the course towards a poverty-free India
    • Since its inception, the platform has enabled leading institutions and organizations in India’s development sector to host pivotal events that have shaped the narrative in a wide range of developmental topics.
    • It is centered on intense hand holding of the identified households through motivated and well-trained field cadres. 
    • It includes: 
      • A consumption grant: To provide ‘breathing space’ for the household to learn livelihoods activities, 
      • A ‘big push’ livelihood grant: (either for agriculture, livestock, a small enterprise, or a combination), household-level enterprise planning and development support, access to rights and entitlements, access to food and nutritional security, health and education services and 
      • Support through special institutions to address the unique challenges of the poorest of the poor. 


    Source: LM 



    Q. Explain ultra-poverty in India. Discuss how the poorest of the poor can be brought out of ultra-poverty.