The figures are based on data from 2005-06, raising questions on their utility as well as underscoring India’s poor record in collating social-indicator figures despite running many welfare schemes. In comparison, other South Asian countries have data for 2009, 2011 and 2013.
“It is really shocking and disappointing that a country like India does not have better survey data about the poverty of its citizens in non-monetary dimensions like malnutrition. To me it seems odd that a country as rich and capable as India fails to enquire how poor people’s lives are going,” said Sabina Alkire, director of the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative that developed the MPI.
But analysts said the data were good enough to show broad indicators. The MPI is unique in capturing simultaneous disadvantages experienced by poor people, such as malnutrition, education and sanitation. The UN and other international organisations turn to the MPI to prepare policies.
By these parameters, Bangladesh is better off than India, which is second only to war-torn Afghanistan.
“Our measure of destitution, which identifies a subset of poor people as destitute if they experience a number of extreme deprivations like severe malnutrition, losing two children, having all primary-aged schoolchildren out of school, and using open defecation,” Alkire said.
In 2010, the Oxford analysis said there were more poor people in India than in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2014, it said the most number of people classified as “destitute” in developing countries live in India.