~ by Trinanjan Chakraborty
The NITI Aayog – the public policy think tank of the Government of India – has released India’s first Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), based on Round IV of the National Health Family Survey (NFHS) 2015-16. The Multidimensional Poverty Index has been used by the United Nations Development Programme in its flagship Human Development Report since 2010. It is the most widely employed non-monetary poverty index in the world. It captures overlapping deprivations in health, education and living standards.
The MPI calculated by the NITI Aayog is on the basis of 12 indicators, making it a wholesome and powerful indicator of poverty. Some of the findings make for worrying reading. The state with the highest MPI (i.e. poverty) is Bihar with an index value of 51.9 – signifying every 2nd household in the state is multi-dimensionally poor. Bihar is followed by neighbor Jharkhand (MPI 42.16) and the nation’s most populous state Uttar Pradesh (MPI 37.69) and India’s 2nd largest state by area Madhya Pradesh (MPI 36.65). At the other end, the spectrum begins with Kerala (MPI 0.71) where <1% of households are found to be multidimensionally poor. Kerala is followed by the tiny states of Goa (MPI 3.76) and Sikkim (3.82).
Some other key findings at a national levels:
Approximately 38% of households (surveyed) are deprived of healthy nutrition levels. A household is considered deprived if any child between the ages of 0 and 59 months, or woman between the ages of 15 and 49 years, or man between the ages of 15 and 54 years is found to be undernourished.
~3% households reported adolescent and child mortality i.e. death of an adolescent / child in the preceding 5 years.
~23% of households were found to deprived of maternal health. A household is deprived if any woman in the household who has given birth in the five years preceding the survey has not received at least four antenatal care visits for the most recent birth or has not received assistance from trained skilled medical personnel during the most recent childbirth.
~14% households were found to have at least one member aged 10 years or older who has not completed minimum six years of schooling.
Around 6.5% households have a child of school going age not attending school.
Around 3/5 (~59%) households have dung, agricultural crops, shrubs, wood, charcoal or coal as their primary source of cooking fuel.
More than half (52%) households had unimproved or no sanitation facilities or were sharing such facilities with neighbors (other households).
~15% households have no access to improved or safe or the same is available more than-30 minutes walking distance from home (round trip).
Approx. 12% households live without electricity.
Around 45% households have inadequate housing: floor is made of natural materials or the walls/roof is made of rudimentary materials.
Close to 10% households are without a bank or post office savings account.
Around 14% households own just one of these assets: Radio, TV, telephone, computer, animal cart, bicycle, motorbike, or refrigerator
To add on to the last finding, internet penetration in India was estimated at 45% during 2020 (source: Statista). Since March/April 2020, educational institutions in India have been largely forced to operate through a digital interface due to the Covid 19 pandemic. With less than half of the country having access to internet, this digital divide surely has had a major adverse effect on education sector in the country. It is obvious that children/students from rural areas and lower economic profiles have been hit harder as a result of this.