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Insights Daily Current Events, January 23, 2014


January 23, 2014




  • Poverty, droughts, underdevelopment, different sorts of inequalities and domination have been the age old problems or phenomena observed from the past to the present and across the time and space. Poverty is a very vague concept with varied connotations and facets.
  • Traditional definition of poverty is constructed with one dimensional approach of income and food intake capabilities.
  • Social Scientists distinguish between ‘relative’ and ‘absolute’ poverty.
  • Relative poverty views poverty as socially defined and dependent on social context, hence relative poverty is a measure of income inequality. Usually, relative poverty is measured as the percentage of population with income less than some fixed proportion of median income.
  • Absolute poverty, extreme poverty, or abject poverty is “a condition characterized by severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information. It depends not only on income but also on access to services. Absolute poverty occurs when people fail to receive sufficient resources to support a minimum of physical health and efficiency, often expressed in terms of calories or nutritional levels.
  • The World Bank defines poverty as “the inability to attain a minimal standard of living”. The World Bank website on ‘Poverty Reduction and Equity’ defines poverty in comprehensive manner, saying, “Poverty is hunger. Poverty is lack of shelter. Poverty is being sick and not being able to see a doctor. Poverty is not having access to school and not knowing how to read. Poverty is not having a job, is fear for the future, living one day at a time. Poverty is losing a child to illness brought about by unclean water. Poverty is powerlessness, lack of representation and freedom.”
  •   UN definition of poverty: Fundamentally, poverty is a denial of choices and opportunities, a violation of human dignity. It means lack of basic capacity to participate effectively in society. It means not having enough to feed and clothe a family, not having a school or clinic to go to; not having the land on which to grow one’s food or a job to earn one’s living, not having access to credit. It means insecurity, powerlessness and exclusion of individuals, households and communities. It means susceptibility to violence, and it often implies living in marginal or fragile environments, without access to clean water or sanitation.


 Uni-dimensional idea of poverty

  • This traditional idea of poverty associates it with lack of sufficient money, so it tries to measure poverty in terms of shortage of income. It is a one-dimensional approach focused on income or lack of it.
  • Poverty researchers, in their efforts to quantify poverty, came up with the clearly tangible idea of headcounts of the poor so that some number can be attached with poverty. This gave birth to the concept of monetary poverty lines – people with income below the poverty line came to be labeled poor.
  • But, Human well-being is a complex issue and is affected by many factors – both material and non-material. In fact, people’s well being depends upon a plethora of factors that can be psychological, social, cultural, political and environmental. Any oversimplified measure can provide convenience but can’t ever present the complete picture. So, the one-dimensional poverty concept is inadequate.

Multidimensional concept of poverty

  • The modern multidimensional approach is characterised with a broader view and considers poverty as a deprivation of essential productive assets and opportunities to which every human being should be entitled. This approach believes that defining poverty in terms of consumption expenditure misses the point.  Assets and its distribution are the key factor. 

There are two approaches that define poverty as a state of multiple deprivations. One is the basic needs approach (BNA) which views poverty as “deprivation of consumption” and the other is the capability approach (CA) in which poverty is seen as “deprivation of opportunities.”

1. The Basic Needs Approach (BNA)

  • This approach aims to provide the opportunities for the full physical, mental and social development of people. Although it aims to provide conditions for comprehensive fulfillment of human life (material, social, cultural and political), in operational terms it primarily focuses on the minimum requirements for a decent life – health, nutrition and literacy – and the goods and services needed to realize it, such as shelter, sanitation, food, health services, safe water, primary education, housing and related infrastructures.
  •  This is the most popular idea behind state’s welfare programs which are designed so that people’s basic minimum needs (as prescribed) are met.

2.  Amartya Sen’s capability Approach                                                                          

  • Amartya Sen’s capability approach provides a more useful alternative to understand poverty.
  • Capability approach to understanding poverty goes beyond income and emphasizes the whole range of means, available to achieve human capabilities like literacy, longevity and access to income.
  • From this perspective, poverty is seen as the failure of some basic capabilities to function- a person lacking the opportunity to achieve some minimally accepted level of these functionings.
  • The functionings relevant to his analysis include
  1. Physical ones as being well nourished, being adequately clothed,   and sheltered
  2. Social achievements such as taking part in the life of the community, being able to appear in public without shame and so on;
  3. The opportunity of  converting personal incomes into capabilities to function depends on a variety of personal circumstances including age, gender, proneness to illness, disabilities and so on; and Social surroundings.
  • The notion of poverty thus goes beyond income and basic services. People who are under empowered, who are unable to participate in making the decisions, who are deprived of basic education, health care, nutrition, water and sanitation, employment and wages and who pass many different inabilities and adversities like inequality of asset, unequal distribution, ignorance, corruption, lack of political power, lack of political will,  natural calamities, inadequate governance, lack of opportunities of development, inappropriate public policies and programmes, lack  of access to entitlements and many hurdles in the well being of human beings are included in the category of poor.
  • There are many other social dimensions of poverty like caste, untouchability, bondages, gender discrimination, social exclusion, domination and violence against the downtrodden.


IPCC Summary for Policy Makers (SPM)

What is IPCC- SPM?

  • Every six years or so, IPCC publishes assessment reports on science, impact and mitigation of climate change.
  • This is the 5th IPCC-SPM. The last (4th) report was published in 2007.

Important Impacts of Climate Change

  • Snow cover in the northern hemisphere in June has reduced by 11.7% per decade since 1967. That means the snow cover in that month over the northern hemisphere has fallen to half of what it was less than 50 years ago.
  • Permafrost- The frozen soil that extends several million square kilometers along the high Northern latitudes has warmed by staggering 3 degrees Centigrade in Northern Alaska since early 1980s and by 2 degrees Centigrade in the Russian European north sine 1971
  • The earth’s surface cover over each of the last three decades has been warmer than any preceding decade since 1850 and has warmed by .85 degrees Centigrade since 1880.
  • Between 1901 and 2010, the sea levels rose by 19 cm on an average worldwide. In recent years, the rise has increased to 3.2 mm a year.


  • Of the total Green House Gases (GHGs) emission, 44% or little less than half accumulated in the atmosphere, and rest almost equally being taken up by oceans and land based ecosystems.
  • As a consequence, the atmospheric concentration of three main GHGs has risen to levels unprecedented in at least 8,00,000 years. Even the oceans absorbing GHGs have become more and more acidic.

Possible Impacts on India

  • The increasing concentration of GHGs in atmosphere will further aggravate the increase in atmospheric temperature as it will rise by a further 0.3 to 0.7 degrees Centigrade in 2016-2035.
  • The increase in seasonal and mean temperatures is expected to be larger in the tropics and subtropics than the mid-latitudes.
  • The tropics are home to huge number of world’s known species, and which have historically evolved and been used to relative narrow temperature band. A small rise will mean that many tropical species have to migrate or become extinct.
  • In the longer term, it is seriously alarming that much of North-west and Central India would be 4 degrees to 5 degrees warmer by 2081 -2100.
  • Monsoon retreat dates will likely be delayed in many regions.