According to Forbe magazine, Mukesh Ambani and Lakshmi Mittal are world’s fourth and fifth richest individuals. Ten out of 25 of Asia’s richest persons also live in India.
However, a new Oxford University study has reported that 55% of India’s population of 1.1 billion live (645 million) people are living below poverty line. According to CIA Fact Book, Pakistan (24%), Israel (21.6%), Islamic Republic (18%), Afghanistan (55%), Gaza Strip (80%), China (8%) and Malaysia (5.1%).
According to the study, about one-third of world’ poor live in India.
The study examined poverty across 28 Indian states, concluding that “81 percent of people are multidimensionally poor in Bihar—more than any other state. Also, poverty in Bihar and Jharkand is most intense – poor people are deprived in 60 percent of the MPI’s weighted indicators. Uttar Pradesh is the home of largest number of poor people – 21 percent of India’s poor people live there. West Bengal is home to the third largest number of poor people.”
The Oxford University research also exposed high levels of poverty among India’s oppressed castes and tribal peoples. The poverty level among India’s so-called Scheduled Tribes is 81.4 percent. “The intensity of poverty is also very high among Scheduled Tribes, who are deprived in 59.2 percent of weighted indicators on average,” the study stated. The MPI for Scheduled Castes was 65.8 percent and for Other Backward Castes (OBC) was 58.3 percent.
Only 31 percent of India’s population had access to improved sanitation in 2008. As a result of the lack of health care and food, 61 million children in India are stunted, the largest figure for any country, according to a UNICEF report. It also stated that the health of children suffers not just due to poor hygienic conditions and lack of nutritional food but also because mothers often suffer from anaemia and malnutrition during pregnancy.
Sharply rising food prices, including an average 83 percent increase since 2008, have been devastating for the country’s poor. Their situation has been further aggravated by recent fuel price hikes announced by the Indian government. The United Nations World Food Program (UNWFP) recently painted an alarming picture, reporting that nearly 350 million people—roughly 35 percent of India’s population —was food insecure and consumed less than 80 percent of their total energy requirements.
More than 1.5 million children in India are estimated to suffer from malnourishment and 43 percent of children under five years of age are underweight, according to the latest UNWFP report. The proportion of anaemic children has increased by six percent in the last six years, with 11 states reporting 80 percent child anaemia rates.
The figures expose the Congress-led government’s claim that India’s economic growth has been “inclusive”. In fact, successive Indian governments led by Congress and the Hindu supremacist Bharatiya Janatha Party (BJP) are responsible for economic policies that have boosted the profits of big business and the wealth of a tiny layer at the expense of the working class and rural poor.