Urban poverty versus rural… life?

The Times of India reports that a memo sent to the 13th Finance Commission from the Government of Gujarat in June claims that the “urban poor” are worse off than rural populations.

The report states that health indicators for the urban poor are lower than for both urban and rural areas as a whole. For example, the urban poor have higher rates of mortality for children under five years, a higher percentage of underweight and anemic children, and lower rates of immunization. The report concludes from this that despite the availability of health facilities, the “urban poor are unable to access them due to their working hours, lack of information, and indifference towards their health,” and that urban slums lack adequate water and sanitation facilities.

While I appreciate more attention being paid to the urban poor, I’m curious about two things in this report. Firstly, why haven’t they compared the urban poor to the rural poor? To me, that would make more sense, since many people who live in rural areas are not poor. Also, the lines between rural and urban are very hazy, particularly in relatively highly urbanized states like Gujarat. Secondly, who are they defining as the “urban poor”? Is it only slum dwellers? Is it people who are on the “Below Poverty Line” lists? Not all slum dwellers are poor, and not all the poor live in slums.

Unfortunately, according to the article, Gujarat is hesitant to release the report because it reflects badly on their efforts to fight poverty, but it would be interesting to see this.

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