Saturday, November 18, 2006

NSSO's thick survey, poverty in India, etc.

Finally, the National Sample Survey Organization (NSS or NSSO) has started publishing the results of its large-sample or 'thick' survey from 2004-05 that many people were keenly waiting for. NSSO conducts 'thin' (or, small-sample) surveys annually, and thick surveys every five years.

Sidebar Links:

In May 2005, I had collected some links on poverty in India.

NSSO Press Release

Mor than 50% jobless (Rediff, 30.9.06)

11 % of households headed by women (The Hindu, 30.9.06)

230 million people still below poverty line (The Business Line, 15.6.06)

Have reforms helped India's poor (Businees Standard editorial, 17.11.06)

Sunil Jain's commentary (20.11.06) is quite good.

The previous thick survey, done in 1999-2000, had used a different methodology for collecting poverty-related data from that used in the previous surveys. This made it difficult to compare its results directly with those of earlier surveyes. Thus, in addition to giving us the latest statistical snapshot about the Indian society, the 2004-05 survey is also expected to clear up the confusion arising out of the fiasco unleashed by the previous thick survey [see my earlier post].

Evidently, a lot of information is going to become available when all the reports come out, and we will get a chance to refer to them in various debates. So, let me collect here (in the sidebar) the links to the news stories and commentaries on the NSSO reports. It will help us when we revisit some of the economy-related issues at a later date.

Before I end the post, I want to give an extended quote from yesterday's Business Standard editorial entitled "Have reforms helped India' poor?":

What of the larger poverty question? While the NSS estimated the percentage of people living below the poverty line in 1993-94 at 37 per cent, the latest data place this at 22 or 28 per cent in 2004-05 (the two numbers are derived from two ways of asking the question!).

That is, poverty in India has fallen by between 0.8 and 1.3 percentage points per year. At that rate, it will take up to two decades and more to eradicate absolute poverty - a scenario that most people will rightly find unacceptable.

What complicates the debate is that the measurement of consumption, and therefore poverty, is fatally flawed. The optimists use the data in one way to argue that poverty levels are much less than the official figures aver; right or wrong, this is not the mainstream view, which is that rapid economic growth has not been accompanied by a fast enough decline in poverty levels.

It is important to go beyond the economists' debate and focus on the kind of issues highlighted in the latest Human Development Report. Sanitation levels in India are among the worst in the world, and account for a substantial part of the health problem.

Clean water supply is another scarce commodity. The standards of health and literacy are nothing to write home about, and governance standards in the key states have fallen to levels where the government's programmes suffer from both poor effectiveness and extensive leakages.

These issues need to be addressed because they affect the poor the most, and they are therefore more important for poverty removal than abstract debates about statistical methodology, patterns of development and inclusiveness.

The challenges of development and poverty removal lie more in the area of devising effective delivery models and less in arcane debates about the changing patterns of demand and supply.


  1. gaddeswarup said...

    Again, I am fairly ignorant about these matters. Since you are collecting the reports, may I also suggest Angus Deaton's 2005 report on the great indian debate on poverty. Acording to Deaton, Minhas has a basic ontribution to sort out two main soures of data which is not so well known. What do you think of Partha Dasgupta's writings? Back in 80's Kalyan told me that Partha used to travel around India on a bike studying economic matters.

  2. Abi said...

    Swarup: Thanks for the pointer to Deaton's paper [I think you are referring to this one, right?]. On the other hand, I have to plead ignorance on the research by Partha Dasgupta.

  3. gaddeswarup said...

    Thanks. That is the one.