Meghalaya’s poverty indicators
It is time to take stock of the NITI Aayog surveys that have consistently shown Meghalaya doing poorly in Health, Education and now poverty alleviation. Meghalaya and Assam are ranked equally at 32.67 % of the population remaining below poverty line. NITI Aayog is using the Multi-dimensional Poverty Indicator (MPI) as a metric to define poverty. Other surveys that consider only income as a measure of poverty show that the poverty rate was decreasing at a fair pace in India until Covid 19 after which poverty has risen. Experts claim that this is a temporary phase and that poverty will continue to fall in the coming years.
Being multidimensionally poor does not only categorise people on the basis of income like other indices do on poverty but it gives a broad perspective by covering fields that include nutrition and health, availability of clean drinking water, gas, electricity and others basic things and years of schooling and education level also including wages. NITI Aayog had conducted this survey in collaboration with 12 ministries and in partnership with state governments and Oxford University’s, Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative and UNDP. Bihar tops the list with almost half of it’s population in poverty at 51.91% followed by Jharkhand(42.2%), Uttar Pradesh(37.8%),Madhya Pradesh(36.7%). Among the North Eastern states Meghalaya and Assam stand at 32.7% among the top 5 multidimensionally poor states. Kerala has the lowest poverty at around only 0.7% and along with Goa, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu and Punjab has the least poverty rate.
The NITI Aayog did clarify however that the survey is also based on the finding of National Family and Health Survey(NFHS) of 2015-16 and includes preliminary findings by the current NFHS which is ongoing so there might be a slight change in data. But that is still no comfort. Poverty levels at 32.7 % means that welfare schemes of the government are not reaching the lower levels of the society. In that case it is important to know what are the implementation gaps and how those can be plugged. The State Government need not be in denial but look at the problem with pragmatism. It is in fact time for Meghalaya to address the elephant in the room which is the growing landlessness in the rural areas where land is rapidly being alienated in favour of a tribal elite which is using the land for plantation crops for tourism destinations. Meghalaya’s political class must show courage to go in for a cadastral survey to find out the exact number of landless people in the state and how this has happened.