Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Reading beyond the lines

Cross posted from The Indian Express
The Op-Ed Page (March 28, 2012)

Reading beyond the lines
Consumption-based measures don’t accurately estimate poverty

Since the publication of poverty estimates purportedly based on the Tendulkar methodology and the 2009-10 consumption survey of the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), many in Parliament and outside, from different political parties, have questioned its conclusions. Concomitantly, media reactions have speculated on poverty’s relationship with fertility, growth, specific schemes, et al. But, India’s poverty, like itself, refuses to classify itself in simple boxes.
Beyond the happenstance of poverty decline in an odd state being less than another, there is no strong and obvious relationship to growth in incomes, whether agricultural or non-agricultural; population, urban or rural, or to the performance of schemes like NREGS. Might it be found in district-level relationships to economic and demographic structure?
It might, but there are good reasons why it might not. The headcount ratio, that is, the share of people below a certain level of consumption, called the poverty line, is a blunt measure. States with a high proportion near the poverty line will show a large fall in headcount ratio for relatively small increases in overall consumption, while states with a large proportion well below the poverty line will show smaller reductions, even if they have higher increases in consumption. This indifference to inequality below the poverty line weakens the relationship between growth and the headcount ratio and is the essence of Amartya Sen’s critique of the measure.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Urban Development and Housing Budget

Budgetary support to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation for FY 13 is Rs 1,163 crores (15% increase YoY). Major plan expenditure in the housing space is financed out of the Internal and Extra Budgetary Resources (IEBR) of Housing and Urban Development Corporation (HUDCO), and is budgeted at Rs 12,176 crores (an increase of 3% over last year).[1] Budgetary support for the Department of urban development increased by 12% to Rs 7,729 crores. Urban development plan outlay will also be supported by Rs 2,637 crores (flat at last year’s level) of IEBR, specifically by the NCR Planning Board and Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC). [2]

In addition to above, expenditure of various other ministries includes an urban component, such as the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports spends on sports infrastructure in urban areas. The National Health Mission is slated to expand coverage to urban population this year. Government is also working on a legislation to safeguard and promote the livelihoods of street vendors under the ‘National Scheme for Support to Street Vendors’ and is launching the ‘National Programme for Urban Homeless’ to help create a network of composite shelters. Mumbai Metro, Jaipur Metro and Kochi Metro will be introduced in FY'13; The Govt. is also studying feasibility reports for Metro Rail projects for all cities with population over 20 lakh people. Rs 148 crores will be spent on capacity building for the flagship schemes - JNNURM and RAY.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Old versus New: City Dynamics

A city is characterized by its people, their way of life and culture that shapes the life of the city. Delhi in a way encompasses two cities, the older part of the city: Old Delhi that represents the inherent character of the city (what the city originally was) and its comparatively newer counterpart: New Delhi that represents the developed character of the city marked by rapid urbanization and infrastructure development (what the city has become).

What is fascinating about Old Delhi is not just the crowded marketplace of Chandni Chowk or the eateries at Jama Masjid. But the people who have lived there for generations, and who refuse to move out or shift to the more developed part of the city aptly called ‘New Delhi’. Old Delhi is characterized by the very warmth of the place that welcomes and comforts all kinds of people-migrants, locals and its very own age old residents.