You know why. The Suresh Tendulkar Committee has done substantial damage to the complacency with which we've long assumed that we're well on the way to eliminating poverty in this country. Only a few years ago, we heard from government and commentators that "only" 26 per cent of India fell below the poverty line, a great reduction from 1991 when the "reforms" began. Well, this Mr Tendulkar tells us that according to his estimates, now accepted by the Government, it's more like 37 per cent of India that's below the poverty line: 370 million people in 2005. That's projected to rise to 405 in 2011 according to today's Hindustan Times.
A few completely random thoughts about these numbers.
* 370 million is greater than the population of India in 1947. (So, for that matter, is 405 million). That is, we have far more poor Indians today than we had Indians at Independence. I think this is a statement that we could have made at any time in every one of our 62+ independent years.
* 370 million is also the number of dollars that brought an IPL team to Pune in the recent round of bidding. (As an aside about the Pune team, check Girish Shahane's sharp eyes). That is, the guys who bid for the Pune team could have used their money to hand out one dollar to each of India's poor millions, possibly nudging them over the poverty line for a day. Gives me some perspective.
* 370 million poor in 2005 rising to 405 million in 2011 is an annual growth rate of just over 1.5 per cent. (Check the numbers yourself). According to various estimates, that's comparable to how fast India's population as a whole is growing (e.g Wikipedia says 1.548, World Bank says 1.34, CIA World Factbook says 1.407, etc). In other words, the number of poor Indian is growing just as fast as the Indian population as a whole (and maybe faster). That is, we are making zero progress in reducing poverty.
Someone tell me what, if anything, I am missing.
Postscript: Above, I said: I think this is a statement that we could have made at any time in every one of our 62+ independent years.
Not true of course, lazily written, let me hasten to correct it. Just doing some quick calculations in my head, I suspect it's a statement that we could have made at any time in at least the last 35 or 40 years.