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Home / Opinion / Online-views /  Some elements of spatial poverty in Rajasthan

The economy of Rajasthan has registered many ups and downs in its growth trajectory. After a slow progress during the 1980s, the 2004-05 to 2012-13 period has been fairly stable with positive growth, with the state gradually moving away from its status of being a BIMAROU state.

The economic growth is also supplemented with improvement in various other social indicators, like infant mortality rate, life expectancy, etc. The most significant consequence of the sustained economic growth has been the steep reduction in the poverty rate. As per the Tendulkar Committee estimates, overall poverty rate in the state declined from 34% in 2004-05 to 15% in 2011-12, a near 20 percentage-point reduction compared to a national level drop of 15 percentage points.

Micro-level analysis suggests a fair improvement in infrastructural facility development, with broad road network across the state providing good connectivity. Nevertheless, small pockets of high concentration of poverty are spread out over the entire state. For instance, even though the poverty rate in Jaipur is relatively low at only 10%, micro-level analysis of Jaipur district shows that more than 50% of the population in about 15% of the grid cells (15 sq.km) is poor. Similarly, even districts with least poverty rate like Hanumangarh and Ganganagar also show high poverty concentration within a small area.

A closer look at these small pockets suggests that most of these areas are either forest areas or surrounded with barren land. The number of transportation hubs in these small pockets are also considerably less compared to other parts of the district.

In contrast, poverty is spread out across the district in case of the densely populated districts. For instance, in Udaipur district, 50% of the poor population is concentrated in about 60% of the grid cells where density of population is high. Spatial analysis suggests that most of these densely populated areas do not have adequate support systems like business facilities and financial institutions necessary for fostering higher economic activities and to meet the needs of a large section of population. On the other hand, the segment of the district with low density of population has a large number of business facilities catering to the needs of the population. Undeniably, development of social sectors is the key to poverty alleviation.

Various researchers are of the view that increasing government expenditure on health and the subsequent decrease in the debt burden on account of health-related expenses is one of the prime reasons for the declining poverty rate in the state. The positive impact of increasing government expenditure on health is evident from the increasing number of hospitals, declining infant mortality rate, etc.

However, on the flip side, our spatial analysis suggests that more than 60% of the hospitals are concentrated in only 25% of the grid cells. Further, these have come up in areas where poverty concentration is relatively low. A difficult access to hospitals not only increases the risk burden on health, but also increases the economic burden.

Education is another aspect of poverty reduction. Spatial analysis also suggests lower poverty rate in areas with higher numbers of educational institutions.

Another important aspect of Rajasthan is the large section of the scheduled tribe and scheduled caste population, which has for long been denied the benefits of development. Micro-level analysis shows the high poverty zones also to be characterized by larger concentration of scheduled tribe/caste population.

The Rajasthan government has launched a number of welfare schemes to promote the deprived community in the state. Financial well-being is key to empowerment and therefore, such welfare programmes need to be extended to these SC/ST dominated high poverty concentration zones.

Another common facet of micro-level poverty across all states in India is the dearth of economic activities in the high poverty zones. Evidently, our spatial analysis also shows high poverty concentration in the areas covered with barren land in rural Rajasthan, while fewer business facilities were seen in the high urban poverty zones of Rajasthan.

Policy initiative of the government requires a more focused and targeted approach to tackle poverty. This is possible through microscopic characterization of the poor and identifying where the poor live. Our concept of spatial poverty can identify these pockets of poverty and measure its extent via remote sensing. This can lead us to a far greater set of policy insight—the most important being its ability to link poverty with the environment that gives rise to it and sustains it.

These are the personal views of the authors and do not reflect those of the organizations with which they are affiliated.

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