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  • Poverty is rarely just a binary state of being poor or not.
  • In reality, the poor may experience anything between destitution, depravation and moderate poverty, and their condition may change from one end of the spectrum to the other over time.
  • The Socio Economic Caste Census (SECC), a database created by the ministry of rural development, attempts to identify such diversity by measuring various parameters according to which a household is deprived.
    • As per SECC data, nearly half of the 18 crore rural households in the country are deprived according to one or more of the seven indicators.
    • A staggering 75% of rural households have monthly income of less than Rs.5,000 and around 38% of rural households are landless and dependent on manual casual labour as their main source of income.
    • The figures show that the multiple social protection and livelihood programmes implemented by successive governments, such as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act and National Rural Livelihoods Mission, have been unable to reach the extreme poor.


  • Studies by poverty labs such as J-PAL have shown that ‘ultra-poor’ have little capital, minimal skills and are usually engaged in insecure and/or low-return occupations.
  • They are unable to meet basic needs, are extremely vulnerable to unexpected life events such as health emergencies, and remain trapped in a cycle of poverty.
  • While there is no universally accepted threshold for being ‘ultra-poor’, more than one-fifth of the world’s population and one-third of India’s rural population live on $1.90 (purchasing power parity) or approximately Rs.130 a day or less—i.e., below the World Bank and United Nations’ threshold for extreme poverty.