Poverty and Inequality in India: Regional Disparities

Part of the India Studies in Business and Economics book series (ISBE)


The fourth chapter has moved a step further from the state boundary and searched for smaller units with better homogeneity and has relied upon the National Sample Survey Office sub-state level data such as ‘region’. Region is a cluster of districts within a state according to homogeneity in agro-climatic features, geographical congruity, population densities and ecological similarities. Thus 87 regions across 28 states and 7 Union Territories of India have been taken into consideration to understand India’s cross-regional variations in levels of poverty and income inequality. It has relied upon two rounds of NSSO data on 2004–2005 and 2009–2010 to make a comparison between these two years. The authors have categorised the density of poverty with very high, high and low ranges with numerical qualification, with which three distinct categories of states––the 10 richest, the 12 middle income and the 13 low income group states––have emerged, where the indicators of poverty and inequality have huge variations. The intra-regional disparity within each of the 20 large states of India also shows wide unevenness. For example, the Vindhya region of Madhya Pradesh has a rural poverty ratio of 61.5 percent, whereas for its Malwa region the ratio is only 17.3 percent. Similarly, the Manipur hill region has an urban poverty ratio of 87.4 percent whereas its plain region shows a ratio of 45.1 percent. In terms of inequality, huge regional disparity exists within states like Kerala, whereas its southern region has a Gini coefficient of 0.413 and its northern region shows a coefficient of 0.364. Similarly, the northern Upper Ganga Plains region of Uttar Pradesh has a Gini value of 0.490 whereas its southern region has a value of 0.301. Apart from economic reasons, such situations also reflect long historical, institutional and policy related reasons. Based on such information, the policy process can focus on these specific gaps and ensure better outcome. Thus advanced states like, Kerala, Gujarat, and Karnataka need to pay attention on their intra-regional disparities by bringing more voice representation from poorer regions. While backward states like Bihar, Jharkhand, Manipur need to focus attention on overall development across all their regions.


Gini Coefficient Urban Sector Nicobar Island Rural Sector High Inequality 
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© Rajiv Gandhi Institute for Contemporary Studies 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Rajiv Gandhi Institute for Contemporary StudiesRajiv Gandhi FoundationNew DelhiIndia
  2. 2.Survey Design and Research Division (SDRD), National Sample Survey Office (NSSO), Ministry of Statistics and Programme ImplementationGovernment of IndiaKolkataIndia

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