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Multiple poverty dimensions reveal 'real' India

Jul 28, 2010

The newly developed MPI measure of poverty presents a broad spectrum of development within the 35 states and UTs of India. According to a report, states like Kerala have performed reasonably well in stark contrast to Bihar and Jharkhand, whose development indicators are comparable to the least developed African countries.

New Delhi: It isn't too much of a stretch to say that India is made up of many nations. A comparison of state-level and country-level data from the newly released multi-dimensional poverty index shows that while Kerala and Goa are at a similar level of development as 'middle-income countries' like Indonesia, Jharkhand and Bihar are similar to 'least-developed countries' like the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Earlier this month, the new MPI measure of poverty was released by the UK-based Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The new measure attempts to go beyond income poverty to give a broader understanding of the many types of deprivation the poor may face. It is composed of ten weighted indicators that measure education, health and standard of living.

Researchers at the OPHI further analysed the MPI for Indian states and for sub-groups including scheduled castes and scheduled tribes among Hindus.

A comparison of the MPIs for various Indian states with the MPIs of the 103 other developing countries in the report shows that the width of regional differences means that experiences within India may range from that of a reasonably well off Indonesian to that of a desperately poor Somalian.

The MPI for Kerala (0.065), the best-performing Indian state, is close to that of Paraguay and the Philippines, while that of Goa, the next best (0.094) is similar to that of Indonesia.

Punjab's MPI is similar to that of the central American nation of Guatemala while Himachal Pradesh's is close to that of north African Morocco.

Tamil Nadu, with an MPI of 0.141, ranks close to Ghana, the poster child for good governance among sub-Saharan countries. While the rest are designated as 'middle-income countries', Ghana ranks as a 'low income country'.

The north-eastern states, grouped together in the report, are at the same level of development as Haiti, already the poorest country in the Americas before the earthquake struck.

West Bengal shares its MPI with the sub-Saharan Ivory Coast, Orissa with Chad and Rajasthan with Tanzania and Mauritania. The DRC and Rwanda, names synonymous with bloody conflict, have development indicators slightly worse than Madhya Pradesh, but better than Jharkhand and Bihar, the states at the bottom of the Indian report card.

Somalia, where 300,000 people died in a famine in the early 1990s, performs slightly worse than Bihar while Sierra Leone, the world's third worst performer on the Human Development Index, is at roughly the same level.

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