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In this January 2006 episode of BBC Hard Talk, then Director of Action Aid India, Babu Mathew, was asked whether poverty amelioration is linked to economic growth in light of the fact that in 1978 poverty rate was 51% of the population, whereas in the 2006 it was 26% (according to the Asian Development Bank):

He replied:

I am glad that you have picked up on the poverty figures...it's a result of manipulation. Statistically, it appears to be valid, but the concepts that are used for the calculation of poverty have been distorted...the calorific content of human consumption, that's the basis. In the 1950s, the nutrition experts of India...said that an adult Indian of average height and moderate activity requires 2750 calories of food. The Govt. of India has reduced that to 2400, 2100 and now it's nearly 1700...If (the calculations were based on) a dollar a day, it would not be 26%. It is now actually 25 cents. The equivalent of the calorific content that they are taking into consideration works out to 25 cents...I think (the number of people living in poverty) would be nearly half the population of India.

Were the Asian Development Bank figures based on the cost of food? Did the Indian Government modify the definition of daily food requirements to make comparisons meaningless, and thus distort the poverty figures down in 2006?

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  • I know that that Indians presumably do more manual labor on average than Americans; however, in the US, the advised daily caloric intake has long been 2000 Calories, with new guidelines adding 2500 being recommend for the very active person(e.g. a high level athlete or construction worker) and 1500 for a sedentary person (e.g. an office worker who doesn't go out of their way to exercise). Given the rise of urbanization and industrialization in the last 40/60 years in India, it may well be that the reduced amount of average labor results in a legitimately lowered average caloric need.
    – sharur
    Apr 19 at 18:05

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