The Moment

1 minute read
Jyoti Thottam

Visit an Indian slum and you’ll often find spotless floors, gleaming pots and clean school uniforms hanging from the wall. The inhabitants have food, a roof and the means to educate their children. Those are the indicators India has often used to distinguish the merely hard up from the truly poor — an underclass that was reckoned at 27.5% of the 1.1 billion population. Activists have long ridiculed the figure as a gross underestimate, and indeed it was. A revision by India’s Planning Commission has just added 100 million to the ranks of the impoverished, pushing the proportion to 37%. Because of inflation largely driven by surging food prices, rural poverty is now defined as the ability to spend 447 rupees (about $10) on basic goods every month. By widening the pool of people eligible for food subsidies, that shift will impact the nation’s coffers. It also delivers a reality check to those Indians, and foreigners, mesmerized by the country’s economic growth and global profile. Some 400 million Indian poor have long known better.

See pictures of the slumdog entrepreneurs in Mumbai.

See TIME’s Pictures of the Week.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at