WHAT CAN Rs 20 possibly fetch? For 836 million Indians, Rs 20 per day, or Rs 600 a month, essentially buys them their daily sustenance. Technically, a large chunk of these 836 million Indians - 77 per cent of the country's population - are above the poverty line at Rs 12 per day.
But the reality is that they remain dismally poor, comprising largely of STs, SCs, OBCs and Muslims, according to the Report on Conditions of Work and Promotion of Livelihood in the Unorganised Sector - the first authoritative study on the state of informal or unorganised employment in India - compiled by the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector (NCEUS), a government-affiliated body.
The report is based on government data for the period between 1993-94 and 2004-05. A staggering 394.9 million workers, or 86 per cent of India's working population, work in the unorganised sector, which means they work without a social security cover. Nearly 80 per cent of these workers are among those who live on less than Rs 20 per day.
NCEUS chairman Dr Arjun Sengupta said: "These are the discriminated, disadvantaged and downtrodden. People who live on Rs 20 or less per day are the real poor and vulnerable." Sengupta told HT that Rs 20, which signifies consumption pattern, is an indicator of the person's income and saving. "If people do not earn, how will they spend or save?" Agriculture, the report found, was a fertile ground for poverty, especially for small and marginal farmers, 84 per cent of whom spent more than they earned and were often caught in debt traps.