‘900 mn Indians live on less than $2 a day’

June 12th, 2008 - 4:26 pm ICT by IANS  

By Dipankar De Sarkar
London, June 12 (IANS) Despite the emergence of a wealthy “global India”, 900 million Indians survive on less than $2 (Rs.85) a day, the British government said while announcing a new seven-year aid package for India. A senior British official said the figure is higher than that estimated by India, which counts its poor by setting a poverty line measured chiefly by the amount of calories eaten per day.

The British aid package, for the first time, recognises the growing inequalities in India and the need to engage simultaneously with several levels of Indians - a fact mentioned by International Development Minister Douglas Alexander who unveiled the new strategy at the House of Commons Wednesday.

While acknowledging “extraordinary transformation”, Alexander said: “It’s important not to forget that a third of the world’s poor and 44 percent of the world’s unvaccinated children are resident in that single country.”

The new British strategy, detailed in a document titled “The Three Faces of India”, says Britain will work with three layers of the Indian society - global India, developing India and the poorest India - from 2008 to 2015.

According to the document, the benefits of global India - characterised by rapid economic growth - “are a reality for less than 20 percent of Indians”.

The second layer of developing India comprises approximately half a billion people - those who live on incomes of between one and two dollars a day.

The third layer of poorest India counts those who are at the bottom of Indian society - the 400 million living on less than a dollar a day, for whom day-to-day survival is the primary concern. Half of them live in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa.

Taken together, the number of Indians surviving on less than two dollars a day adds up to 900 million.

“If our strategy is successful, India will no longer have three faces,” Mark Lewis, who heads the India office of the Department for International Development (DFID), told IANS.

Another senior DFID official said the British strategy was aimed at eliminating poverty in India, “or something close to elimination”.

The department has announced an aid package of 825 million pounds for the period 2008-09 to 2010-11.

“A budget has not been set beyond this period, but depending on developments, the overall aid allocation is likely to decline as India becomes a middle income country. The focus of our assistance would shift more towards technical cooperation,” the document says.

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