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Economic growth in a cross section of countries

Heera told me about the events that had led to this decline.“My father fell ill about 18 years ago. We must have spent close to 25,000 rupees on his treatment, but to no avail. When my father died, we performed the customary death feast, spending another 10,000 rupees. We sold our cattle and had to borrow money. We worked harder in order to repay these debts. Then, about ten years ago, my wife fell seriously ill, and she has still not recovered. We borrowed more money to pay for her medical treatments. More than 20,000 rupees were spent for this purpose. It became hard for us to keep up with our debts. Somehow we could make do for another two or three years. Then the rains failed for three years in a row, and that was the end of the road for us. We had to sell our land. Now, my sons and I work as casual labor, earning whatever we can from one day to the next.”

Twenty years ago, Heera and his family would not have been eligible for a “below-poverty-line” (BPL) card; today they are – and there are many others like them. Not only in Rajasthan, but across the country, thousands of people are becoming poor every day. Future poverty is being created even as some old poverty is reduced.

Together with colleagues, I have studied these trends in different states of India and other countries of the world. I met many people like Heera whose families were not poor 10 or 20 years ago, but who —because of identifiable and preventable events –have fallen into poverty with the passage of time. Unlike them, their children are being raised in poverty (see Krishna 2010).

Why is the widespread creation of poverty not being addressed with greater vigour? Why are policies and programmes focused single-mindedly on taking people out of poverty? Surely, planners cannot hold the belief that all poor people were born to this state?