SR article

Development & Poverty Analysis

The level of poverty of a country has a huge influence on the rate of its development. In order for a community to grow economically, it’s a precondition for individuals to have access to all basic needs. If this is not the case, then their health and ability to work are at stake. This article contains an analysis about the poverty in India and how this affects the development of the country. Jeffrey Sachs has made a checklist to diagnose the poverty in a country. You can find this list in Chapter 4 of his book “The end of poverty” (see 'Literature'). In our analysis, we discuss the 'Key risk factors' of the checklist and how they apply to India and to our project.

The nature and distribution of poverty and its ultimate causes

Though India is experiencing rapid economic growth, wealth is not distributed equally and many remain poor. Living standards vary tremendously, depending on geographic and social factors. Especially rural areas, where 70% of the country’s population lives, are affected by poverty, lacking basic needs such as clean water and health care.

This is also the case in the region of focus, Kerala, a state in the Southwest of the country. According to the Reserve Bank of India, 9.14% of all people living in rural areas in Kerala live under the poverty line, whilst in urban areas it is 4.97%. [1] The district of Wayanad, where the village Valaramkunnu lies, is the poorest of all Kerala districts, with a poverty rate above 30%. [2]

There are many causes for poverty in these regions. The main reason is the way the economy is organized in India: the huge economic growth is mainly taking place in the services and industry sectors, which don’t employ a lot of people. Meanwhile, the agriculture growth rate has dropped from 4.8% to 2%. About 60% of the population is employed in agriculture whereas the contribution of agriculture to the GDP is about 18%. [3] This means that a tiny part of the population is becoming richer through this development and that many were left behind in the transition to globalization.


Physical geography

The region of interest lies in Wayanad, in the middle of a rainforest in the mountains. This makes it hard to reach and cut off from the modern world. The population density is very low, the nearest city is far away and therefore access to goods and products from outside is complicated. This poor connectivity forces the local villages to be self-sufficient and survive on their own resources.

The local farmers work on the fields. The land is fertile, but the continued and indiscriminate exploitation of the natural resources point towards an imminent environmental crisis. [4] This is why many resources are protected by law and unavailable to local communities for agricultural use. An example is the firewood that the villagers first used for lemongrass distillation.

The Physical Geography will possibly also form a complication in our project: Valaramkunnu, the village where our project takes place is located in the mountains of Wayanad. The road is so steep that it is unreachable by car and by foot, it takes more than an hour. This makes transportation of goods extremely difficult.


Governance policies and capacities to invest in infrastructure

Since the independence, there have been a lot of reforms with the goal to reduce extreme poverty. The land reforms were the most successful. By suppressing intermediaries, simplifying and standardizing the system of tenancy, production relations were made more efficient and rural wages went up. However, the land was not redistributed and remained property of the big landowners, which limited the effects.

Kerala is unique in that the state has a lot of health-focused policies. Once it achieved statehood, Kerala invested in infrastructure to create a multi-layered health system designed to provide first-contact access for basic services at the community level and expanded integrated primary health care coverage to achieve access to a range of preventive and curative services. [5]


Governance patterns and failures

India is a democracy, which gives the country a more stable foundation than for example a dictatorship, however, with so many people and different social and ethnic groups, reaching a consensus on a long-term goal can prove to be difficult. Tensions between social groups make negotiations complicated and that’s why many reforms were short-term solutions or half-measures that failed to have a true impact. Many surveys confirm that the population is convinced that the reforms have benefited mostly the rich while the rest still lack access to basic services. [6]

Then, there is the corruption factor. The systems of public management don’t function properly and fairly: Bribery and embezzlement are deeply rooted in the administration of the country. This contributes greatly to poverty: The poor become poorer en the rich even richer and this gap keeps growing. [7]


Cultural barriers

In India, the population is divided in different groups by the caste system. In earlier times, these divisions were very strict and marriage between groups was prohibited. Nowadays the caste system is of less or no importance in the urban areas and marriage between castes is quite common. However, in rural areas the caste system is still part of everyday life. Each region has its own system and traditions, which results in hundreds of different forms of the caste system. In Kerala, the region where we are going, the caste system is less important than in most regions. Kerala was formed on a linguistic basis, which makes the society more diverse and modern in comparison to regions that were formed on a religious basis. [8]

Women have played a significant role in the social and political structure of India. However, with the advent of the Muslim culture, society changed. Women became submissive and in many regions they still are. Traditionally, men are considered the bread-earner and caretaker of the family, which makes them very dominant in the household. The unique thing about Kerala is that mothers are the head of the household; this isn’t the case in all social classes and religions, but far more than in other regions. [9], [10]



Since 2014 there have been a series of events on the India-Pakistan border. There have been many firing exchanges, which have taken quite a few lives. Both sides keep accusing the other of initiating the hostilities. In September 2015 both sides agreed to stop violating the ceasefire and strengthen the border control.

The total merchandise trade of India has more than tripled from 2006 (252 billion dollars) to 2012 (794 billion dollars). China is the top exporter to India with 11.92% of the total (2012-2013) followed by the United Arab Emirates with 8.35% and Saudi Arabia with 6.85%. In the same period was the United States of America the biggest importer from India with 13.87% of the total, followed by United Arab Emirates with 13.09% and Singapore with 4.68%. [11]


Historical backgrounds

In 1526 Babar, the founder of the Mogul Empire, invaded India. His grandson Akbar ruled this empire, which included almost entire India, until his death in 1605. After his death the Mogul Empire began to decline, but it took until 1858 before it was totally gone. [12] In 1858 the British took over and between 1858 and 1947 the British crown ruled in India, also named the British Raj. In 1947 it split into two parts: the Dominion of India (later Republic of India) and the Dominion of Pakistan (later the Islamic Republic of Pakistan). In January 1950 the constitution of India came into effect. [13]

In 1956 there was a major reformation of the state boundaries, named the States Reorganization Act. This act used the linguistic lines as boundaries of the states. Although changes have been made since 1956, is remains the most extensive change in state boundaries.



















1) Jeffrey Sachs, The End of Poverty. Penguin, 2005. Chapter 4 :

2) William Easterly, The White Man’s Burden: Why the West'S Efforts To Aid The Rest Have Done So Much Ill And So Little Good. Penguin, 2007. Chapter 10.