Odisha conundrum: Top-5 in economic growth, Top-6 in Poor count!

The percentage of population in Odisha vulnerable to poverty in 2015 was 16. Now the count has climbed to touch 19.1 per cent

Bhubaneswar: A big paradox stares at Odisha. When the State with  an average annual growth rate of around 8.1 per cent for the period 2012-19 figured among the top-5 high growth states nationally, it languished among the bottom – 6 poorest regions in the country.

While nearly 4 (3.6) per 10 people in the State are categorised as poor (living below $1 a day), the intensity of poverty (means deprivation among the poor) in Odisha seems very high. Moreover, 1 in every 10 persons lives in severe poverty in the State. And another two in every ten individuals are greatly vulnerable to poverty, which means the risk of they being pushed into the category of poor remains very high.

Such a tale of the poor count in Odisha was recently revealed jointly by Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHDI), an arm of University of Oxford, and UNDP.

The OPHDI – UNDP’s Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) has put Odisha among the bottom -6 poorest regions in the country by assigning it an overall score of 0.16. The State is behind Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Assam.

Though the Odisha Government has been claiming of achieving an inclusive growth, the MPI tells a different story.

Odisha is the only state in the top-5 club that shows such a high incidence and intensity of poverty in the country. The other states in the club like Gujarat, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have incidence of poverty hovering between 15-21 per cent vis-a-vis Odisha’s 35.9 per cent.

The details throw more grave facts. The big worry is when around 16 per cent of population in Odisha were vulnerable to poverty in 2015, the count has climbed to 19.1 per cent in 2019.

Even as the State has Re 1-a-kg rice scheme under NFSA, inaccessibility to nutrition has been the biggest contributor to poverty in Odisha. The bottom-line of the findings is Odisha ranked high in the MPI because, the accessibility to two square meals a day is very poor in the State. The report puts the contribution of nutrition to State’s MPI at around 30 per cent.

Another big disclosure is, despite a plethora of housing schemes (PMAY (Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana), Biju Pucca Ghar Yojana etc), lack of accessibility to housing in the State has been the second biggest contributor to the MPI in Odisha.

Other multiplier factors for State’s high MPI are large scale open defecation, high use of traditional/fossil cooking fuels etc. Above all, poor income leading to poor assets at hand played the top-up factor in manufacturing high MPI rating for Odisha nationally.

The contributing factors to poverty in Odisha hint at the inequitable economic growth in the State. Because, when the State’s Eco-Survey 2018-19 has claimed of Odisha’s faster increase in the per capita income, the reflection on ground, however, is not discernible.

The OPHDI – UNDP has computed the MPI by taking into account over 10 indicators divided into three dimensions such as education, health and standard of living (from nutrition to sanitation, cooking fuel, water & electricity).