Who are poor in our country? 

Co-Written by Santu Das & Kamalesh Roy poverty

By the year 2011-2012, the National Sample Survey (NSS) conducted a survey across the country to map the scenario of daily expenditure of Indian population and later in the year 2014 it was published as a complete report. In that report, the people of our country were divided into 12 categories based on their monthly expenditure. A highlight on some aspects of the final statistics of the same has been made in this section. The NSS report is very complex in nature; It also comprises of vast statistical population and hence we’re afraid an eloquent appraisal could be made within the scope of this short commentary. But despite that fact, if we compare the ‘classes’ of the vast population in the aforementioned report to the people around us from different economic strata , we hope a rational notion can easily be established.


Assume the total population of our country is divided into a 12 storeyed building; The ground floor is occupied by the poorest 5% of the population and the top floor by the richest 5% of the population; 80% is equally divided among 8 other floors between the 2nd floor and 10th floor as per their increasing amount of purchasing power, respectively. Now, let’s look into the fact sheet of their daily expenditure !

Shyamal-Da, an employee of our University and a father of two, lives in a university staff-quarter. His monthly salary is ​₹ ​28k. Though his daughters study in a government sponsored school, the cost of private tuition is high and increasing. Assuming they spend once in a year for garments and live on 3 veg days accompanying 4 non-veg days in a week and pay a single monthly visit to the nearby restaurant, one can deduce that Shyamal Da anyhow makes both ends meet and yet he is not ‘Rich’ , he is indeed ‘Poor’. The place of his family can be allotted at the top 10th or 11th slot of the total 12 . In rural India, families having ₹20k monthly income can avail similar amount of goods and services like Shyamal-Da and occupy the identical slot. It may be concluded that Shyamal-Da belongs to the richest 10-20% population size i.e. 80-90% people in India are poorer than Shyamal-Da.

Mukul-Da is a janitor in one of our university buildings and his son works at the same office to supply drinking water everyday in the morning. Their total monthly income is around₹12k to feed a family of five. Mukul-Da has his place at the 5th or 6th slot of the NSS conducted survey table (i.e. 4th or 5th floor). The report suggests that Mukul-Da is more rich than the half of entire Indian population! And to recollect, when Mukul da left his village out of poverty and unemployment, their rural area did not have any irrigational supply to sustain agriculture nor any other certainty to provide even the sole meal of a day. Most of his neighbours could not leave the village and the area remains in the same condition unaltered. An overwhelming majority of them drew a loan from the local lender (Mahajans) to survive the drought and unquestionably defaulted the vicious circle of informal rural loan, which only added the misery of land seizure by the rural lenders. At last, The people who used to own land once, became landless peasantry and double meal a day, fish curry once in a month, a new set of clothing per two year seems like a dream to these villagers. People like Mukul-Da are indeed ‘Rich’ to them. 2nd or 3rd slot can be entitled to them (i.e. 1st or 2nd floor in the building). In urban areas, Rickshaw-pullers having a rented Rickshaw possess identical purchasing power like the landless peasantry section in a village.

Few women and children come to our university to pick bottles from the dustbins and other dumping places. They sell their daily collection to a middle-vendor for an earning of ₹50 to sustain their families. Their per person expenditure for food is less than₹20! The NSS report suggests that 30% of the total population of our ‘great country’ spends less than₹30 daily for food (which is identical to per day per person cost of smoking and drinking of many university students, I hope ) !


Indian population is 120 crore (as the NSS report is based on 2012 data) . Half of them cannot afford their daily nutritional requirement. People like Mukul Da (of 5th or 6th slot of the table) can be termed as economically ‘good’ who can spend ₹80 per day per person (cost includes food, healthcare, education, housing, transportation). So, it can be undoubtedly concluded that the 60 crore people in India are real Poor !

The following table consists of per person per day estimated expenditure for food (in₹, in the year 2014). The data has been taken from the aforementioned NSS report which was based on 2012 data ( Standing in the year 2018, there must be some change).


Santu Das : I’m currently working at NIELIT- Kolkata as a project assistant to make my share of food on the table. And to repay whatever I’ve taken from the society, I’m a part time teacher at Pathshala, an evening school initiative by Refraction Magazine based in Kolkata. Also, I’ve done my Bachelor’s in Construction Engineering from Jadavpur University, Kolkata. [email protected]

Kamalesh Roy : Co-ordinator at Pathshala, an evening school initiative by Refraction Magazine based in Kolkata. [email protected]


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