Rural expenditure up by 33 per cent: NSSO

Around 83 million rural people still live on less than Rs 20 a day

By Richard Mahapatra
Published: Wednesday 01 August 2012

In just two years, rural India's household expenditure has increased by more than 30 per cent, according to the latest household consumer expenditure survey by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO). Household consumer expenditure is being used as a proxy to decide the income of households. The results, declared on July 31, suggest a big jump in overall earning.

The survey assumes importance given the government’s rejection of NSSO’s last survey report released in March. It was rejected amid controversy over poverty estimates which are based on such surveys. The government argued that the last survey took place in 2009-10, a severe drought year, and thus did not reflect the correct expenditure of rural households.

The latest figures show the average rural monthly household consumer expenditure has gone up from Rs 927.70 in 2009-10 to Rs 1,281.45 in 2011-12. However, 60 per cent of rural households live below this average figure. Around 83 million rural people live on less than Rs 20 per day, according to the latest survey.

Applying the rural poverty line of Rs 22 per day per person stipulated in March but later abandoned, the new survey estimates around 167 million poor in rural areas. This is 111 million less than the March figure of 278 million poor people.

NSSO will release the detailed survey results at the end of 2013, a few months before general elections. In an unusual step, it attached a separate sheet of questionnaire to the main survey to bring out a quick estimate. According to sources in the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, this was done to demonstrate that the drought of 2009 impacted the expenditure level negatively. Thus, it is not a sound survey to base the poverty estimate on, they say.

However, the latest survey, like the one released and abandoned in March, indicates huge gap in rural-urban expenditure as well as inter-rural disparity. The urban per capita expenditure is 87.4 per cent higher than rural. Within rural population, the top 10 per cent spends around seven times more than the bottom 10 per cent.

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