India Insight

Earning $1,613 per month and poor? Only if you are Parsi

How poor do you have to be in India to get the government to say you’re poor? The Indian government used to say that 28.6 rupees (51 cents) a day or less for urban Indians — about 858 rupees or $15.30 a month was about right. Activists for the poor said that it was unrealistic to think that people who were making more than that amount a day were well off.

As a government-appointed commission works on defining a new poverty line, it might want to consult India’s Parsis, descendants of Zoroastrians who migrated to India from Persia (present-day Iran) several centuries ago.

On Monday, the Bombay Parsi Punchayet (BPP), an administrative body for the Parsi community in India, said it will define Parsis as poor if their monthly income is less than 90,000 rupees ($1,613). This translates to an annual income of 1.08 million rupees, way above India’s 2011 annual per capita income of about 85,000 rupees. You’re a poor Parsi if you’re ‘slightly’ richer than the average Indian, in other words.

The punchayet‘s reason for the “poor” label, revealed during a court case in Mumbai, is to ensure that Parsis are eligible for apartments in subsidised city housing.

The Parsis, a close-knit and wealthy community struggling with a dwindling population, have always been known for their enterprising spirit. Some of India’s most successful businesses, including the omnipresent Tata Group, are part of the Parsi tradition.

India’s rich, richer than the French. Its poor, much poorer

By Annie Banerji

As India’s politicians struggle to manage an outcry over the definition of poverty — does earning more than $0.65 a day really mean you are not poor? — a new report shows the country’s rich doing very nicely from fast economic growth.

Rubbing shoulders with Singapore and Hong Kong, India appears in the top five countries where the affluent now have more than $1 million investable assets on average, according to the Global Affluent Investor study conducted by research company TNS.

“India and China have already surpassed major European markets like Germany and France. It’s interesting to see that the entrepreneurial spirit of people in these markets is already paying off in terms of personal wealth,” Reg van Steen, Director of Business and Finance, TNS, said.

Why should the government control inflation?

A labourer pulls a plastic sheet to cover sacks of paddy from rain at a grain market in Chandigarh January 13, 2010. REUTERS/Ajay VermaThe ‘reform agenda’ understood as ‘market-oriented reform’ or giving more space to market mechanism in food and fuel economy seems to have been held up.

The government can not be seen to be doing away with subsidies just as prices are up. Its hand is stayed for now.

But is that enough for say the gross national happiness?

Food and fuel inflation has been in the news for a while.

The government has no short-term control over supply side issues causing price rise like a bad monsoon leading to a low harvest or floods, but it can control the rising demand by reining in liquidity.

Whose poor is poor?

“To define is to limit,” wrote T.S. Eliot.

Indeed sometimes, to limit things, they just may have been defined in a particular manner.

This struck home when I saw a communication by the World Bank on poverty estimates.

The World Bank produced an update of poverty numbers for the developing world based on an international price survey conducted in 2005.