Below the Poverty Line (BPL)
India has one of the fastest growing economies in the world. However, this growth is uneven when comparing different social, economic and geographic groups. Despite the vast array of prosperity observed in this nation, desperate poverty is still a huge challenge faced by many.
The World Bank’s definition of the poverty line is US$ 1 per day, per person, or US $365 per year. According to this definition, more than 75% of Indians are living below the poverty line.
The Government of India defines those living below the poverty line in urban areas as existing on Rs. 296 per month and for rural areas Rs 276 per month, thus the BPL is indicated at Rs. 10 per person, per day, equating to US $75 per year. According to the Government of India, this amount is adequate to purchase food containing 2200 calories daily, enough to survive on. However, existence on this level income is a constant struggle. In 2004-5, it was estimated in the range of 300 million (30 crore) Indians were living below the poverty line as defined by the Government of India, equating to approximately 27.5% of the population.
Backward Castes (SC, ST and Other OBC)
Scheduled Castes, also referred to as Dalits, and Scheduled Tribes, also called Adivasis, comprise over 24% of India’s population, with SC over 16% and ST over 8% as per the 2001 census. Often referred to as the depressed castes, the proportions of both have steadily increased since independence in 1947.
Other Backward Castes (OBC) are described as being socially and educationally disadvantaged, while facing discrimination on account of birth. According to the Indian Constitution, it is obligatory for the government to promote the welfare of the OBC, SC and ST. The latter generally do not own land or have their own economic independence, thus being reliant on other castes. Approximately 50% of the Indian population is represented by backward castes, many of whom live below the poverty line.
The inclusion of women in many sectors in independent India has been on the increase and the Constitution of India guarantees equality to all Indian women. In 2001, The National Policy for the Empowerment of Women was passed and the year was declared as the Year of Women’s Empowerment.
However, despite such positives, the ground realities are often a contrast, particularly among the rural and urban poor. Female literacy rates are still lower than the male equivalent rates, fewer girls are enrolled in schools and gender bias is still prominent. Women still face problems relating to land and property rights, sexual harassment, dowry related domestic violence, female infanticide and child marriage.
Rural-urban migration is in existence in India as villagers are influenced by pull factors seeking to improve their livelihood through increased opportunities and advanced lifestyles. Migration patterns are determined by access to resources, the environment, social relations and the demand for labour. Seasonal migration is also prominent often due to lack of employment in native villages and increased times of hardship.
Often migrants leave behind families, departing for different lengths of time. On arrival in urban areas, they can then face issues of unemployment, exploitation, low wages, lack of entitlement to government services and social exclusion.