Tatsat Chronicle Magazine

Is The Index Cited By The PM on August 15 An Accurate Measure of Acute Poverty?

Experts point out that the yardstick used by NITI Aayog does not accurately measure the extent of poverty in the country. This is the data that the PM used in his Independence Day speech to assert the claim that his government has lifted more than 135 million people out of poverty
August 21, 2023

One hundred and thirty-five million of “my fellow poor brothers and sisters have broken free from the chains of poverty and entered the new middle class” during his first five-year term, Prime Minister  Narendra Modi declared in his Independence Day address to the nation from the Red Fort. “There can be no greater satisfaction in life than this.”

Indeed, such a large number of people rising above poverty is cause for celebration. Not all of them may have achieved middle class status; most might be hovering on the perimeters of poverty. But a politician can be given latitude in speech. And the poverty reduction happened during a six-, not a five-year period, from 2015-16 to 2019-21, which includes 2020-21, when the pandemic hit the poor particularly hard.

The prime minister made the assertion based on NITI Aayog’s National Multidimensional Poverty Index, an “indigenised index” as Aayog vice-chairman Suman Bery put it, developed in collaboration with the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). It uses data from the National Health and Family Survey-5 conducted by the health ministry’s International Institute for Population Sciences. Tangentially, its director and senior professor, K.S. James, who was involved in the survey, was suspended in July allegedly over “hiring regularities” but actually according to The Wire, for datasets unpalatable to the government.

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Vivian Fernandes

He is senior journalist and columnist for several reputed publication. He was formerly with CNBC-Network18 and specializes in the agriculture sector and economy. He has written more 450 articles on agriculture alone.