Poverty lines and lives of the poor: underestimation of urban poverty - the case of India

This paper describes the development of poverty lines in India, from the 19th century to the present, and assesses their limitations as an indication of poverty. It demonstrates that use of the official poverty line results in considerable underestimation of the extent of urban poverty, and oversimplifies the nature of poverty by disregarding or disguising the reality of the lived experiences of poor people. It then considers the relevance and accuracy of the official poverty line as applied in Pune, a city with around 3 million inhabitants. This highlights the very large gap between the 2 per cent of households designated as