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The Nehru Memorial Museum & Library


‘Poverty and Privation: Trends over a quarter century in a village and a slum near Delhi’, 1 July, 2015 .

‘Poverty and Privation: Trends over a quarter century in a village and a slum near Delhi’

Dr. Devesh Vijay,


Differences on the problem of poverty in India are no more confined to liberal and left economics nor are they restricted to the identification of its causes and solutions. In fact, the very definition of poverty, its measurement and assessment and its incidence in different caste groups, have been a matter of intense debates since the ‘liberalisation’ of the Indian economy in mid 1980s. In this scenario, a series of long term, multi-method, multi-vocal accounts of urban and rural poverty from different regions can throw useful light on the changing nature of poverty and privation (including vulnerabilities to illness, insecurity etc) on the ground. As a small contribution, this paper analyses trends, over the past quarter century, in indices of poverty, hunger, morbidity and suicides in the microcosm of a village and a slum visited by me intermittently since 1988. Besides tracking said indices along with household data on incomes and assets and on community infrastructure and wages, the paper also relates its findings with other micro-studies in the region as also trends discerned in national poverty data sets. It concludes with reflections on the simultaneous rise in consumption and privation in the field and on limitations of a monetary view of poverty that dominated most official counts till recent times.


Dr. Devesh Vijay is Associate Professor in the Department of History at Zakir Husain Delhi College, University of Delhi. Presently he is a fellow at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library. Dr. Vijay has written on underdevelopment, left discourses and on cultural history. His writings include: Writing Politics: Left Discourses in Contemporary India and Sanskritik Itihaas: Ek Tulnatmak Sarvekshan). Presently he is studying ‘poverties’ and underdevelopment through the prism of a slum and a village in the National Capital Region.

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