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For the first time in the history of India, there was a decline in the absolute numbers of the poor after 2004-05; until then for nearly 30 years (1973-74 to 2004-5), there was a fall in the percentage, but not in the absolute numbers of the poor (322 million poor in 1973-74 and 302 million poor in 2004-05, by the Lakdawala poverty line).

The decline in poverty was driven by a rise in real wages. This rise in real wages and an increase in consumption expenditure have driven demand for goods to the bottom of the pyramid, as poor people have emerged out of poverty.

After 2004-05, demand for a number of consumer goods has grown sharply, which is reflected in the rise in consumption expenditure to 2011-12. This rise of consumption expenditure shows that the numbers of poor fell from 407 million (Tendulkar line) in 2004-05 to 356 million in 2009-10, and further to 269 million (2011-12).

The new non-poor demand simple manufactured consumer goods: processed food (biscuits, milk), leather goods (shoes, sandals), furniture (plastic chairs/tables, wooden furniture), textiles, garments and mobiles. All these product areas and services saw a dramatic increase in employment between 2009-10 and 2011-12, primarily because these simple, low-end products (at least those consumed by the new non-poor) are produced in the unorganised sector, using labour-intensive methods.

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29.5% of Indians are 'poor': Poverty estimates 2014

An expert panel headed by former RBI governor C Rangarajan said in a report that 29.5% of the India population lives below the poverty line, as against 21.9% according to Tendulkar. For 2009-10, Rangarajan has estimated that the share of BPL group in total population was 38.2%, translating into a decline in poverty ratio by 8.7 percentage points over a two-year period. This means that the BPL population, is estimated at 363 million in 2011-12, compared to the 270 million estimate based on the Tendulkar formula — an increase of almost 35%.

The real change is in urban areas where the BPL number is projected to have nearly doubled to 102.5 million based on Rangarajan's estimates, compared to 53 million based on the previous committee's recommendations. So, based on the new measure, in 2011-12, 26.4% of the people living in urban areas were BPL, compared to 35.1% in 2009-10.

If calculated on a daily basis, this translates into a per capita expenditure of Rs 32 per day in rural areas and Rs 47 per day in urban areas in 2011-12.

As per the Tendulkar methodology for 2011-12, the poverty line was Rs 816 in rural areas and Rs 1,000 in urban areas, which if calculated on a daily basis come out at Rs 27 per day in rural areas and Rs 33 in urban areas.

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