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Causes For Introduction of Article 21 A

Written by: Prateek Deol Student of 3rd Year of Gujarat National Law University
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What is poverty?

Poverty is a social and economic condition which touches men, women, and children throughout the world, in urban areas as well as rural areas. Because it is so widespread, poverty takes on many forms. The 2002 Least Developed Countries Report by UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) defines poverty as the inability to achieve minimally adequate levels of consumption, which entails a lack of basic necessities for physical survival (food, water, clothing, and shelter). The Program of Action of the World Summit for Social Development in 2002 defines poverty as being characterized by:
1. lack of income and productive resources sufficient to ensure sustainable livelihoods
2. hunger and malnutrition
3. ill health
4. limited or lack of access to education and other services
5. increased mortality from illness, homelessness and inadequate housing
6. social discrimination and exclusion
7. lack of participation in decision-making
8. And lack of participation in civil, social, and cultural life.

It defines absolute poverty as being characterized by severe deprivation of basic human needs such as food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education, and information.[1]

Poverty is inextricably linked to economic, social and political inequality. The poor are more vulnerable to events they cannot control. They are less able to diversify their income sources. They are more likely to suffer from famine, violence, and natural disasters. They have lower access to credit markets and insurance, with which to smooth out their consumption. Their children risk exploitation, and are less likely to become educated.[2]

Poor people live in poor countries. The countries ranging from low-income to upper-middle-income countries are grouped under the broad category third world, the South or developing world which refers to Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa, Asia (except for Japan), and Eastern Europe. (The developed world is comprised of Western Europe, North America, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand.)

The Least Developed Countries are 49 countries identified by the UN in 1971 as "least developed" in terms of their low GDP per capita, their weak human assets (as given by a composite index), and their high degree of economic vulnerability (as also given by a composite index). The LDC’s are the "poorest and most economically weak of the developing countries, with formidable economic, institutional and human resources problems, which are often compounded by geographical handicaps and natural and man-made disasters". These 49 least developed countries have a combined population of some 560 million people, or approximately 10% of the world's population but only 0.1% of the world's income.[3] 34 of these countries are African.

In the world's poorest countries, more than 75% of the population lives in rural areas, depending on agriculture for work and income. (In Africa and Asia, 80% of poor people live in rural areas and in Latin America, 50% of poor people live in rural areas.[4]) Of the 800 million people worldwide who are suffering from chronic malnutrition, the vast majority live in rural areas of developing countries.[5]

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has identified several characteristics of the rural poor: they live in remote areas, cultivate dry and marginal lands, are illiterate, have large families and high mortality, and suffer from hunger and disease.[6]

The global distribution of rural poverty:

a. 44% of the world’s rural poor live in South Asia
b. 24% in East Asia
c. 24% in sub-Saharan Africa
d. 6.5% in Latin America and the Caribbean[7]

Virtually everywhere, women and children are discriminated against and experience the harshest deprivation. They are more likely to be poor and malnourished and less likely to receive medical services, clean water, and sanitation. (In India, girls are 4 times more likely to suffer from acute malnutrition than boys, who are 40 times more likely to be taken to a hospital when ill.) Women also have less access to education, formal-sector employment, social security, and government employment programs. Women’s financial resources are meager and unstable relative to men’s. Thus the poorest segments of LDC populations live in households headed by women in which there are generally no male wage earners.[8]

Approximately 40% of the world’s countries have more than five sizable ethnic populations, one or more of which faces serious economic, political and social discrimination.[9] Worldwide, there are 300 million indigenous peoples over 5,000 different groups in more than 70 countries.[10] Indigenous people represent 5% of the global population, but comprise about 15% of all the poor people in the world[11] and about 1/3 of the world’s 900 million extremely poor rural people.[12]
Poverty is a shocking condition, but it is also a complex phenomenon that can have causes at the individual level, societal level, country level, and at the international level. The causes of poverty are social, political, economic, and geographic.

The many causes of poverty include:
I. absence of infrastructure or poor infrastructure
II. lack of opportunities
III. lack of social integration
IV. crime
V. natural disasters
VI. natural factors such as climate or environment
VII. overpopulation
VIII. war, genocide
IX. lack of education
X. exploitation of the poor by the rich
XI. geographic factors
XII. government corruption
XIII. lack of democracy
XIV. disease (AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis)
XV. inadequate nutrition
XVI. social discrimination
XVII. substance abuse
XVIII. cost of living
XIX. national debt
XX. lack of hygiene and access to sanitation
XXI. lack of access to credit
XXII. lack of access to land

With the technology we have developed, with enough food to feed everyone, enough medicine to cure everyone from treatable diseases, why does poverty still exist? Poverty persists because whole countries around the world are caught in poverty traps.

A poverty trap is a self-reinforcing mechanism which causes poverty to persist. A poverty trap is in place when the evolution of individual wealth or well-being is governed by a path-dependent process such that depending on initial conditions, individuals, nations or other groups remain for long periods of time (if not indefinitely) "locked into" poverty[13] and suffer from persistent underdevelopment[14]. The mechanisms which reinforce poverty may occur at any scale of social and spatial aggregation, from individuals to families, communities, regions, and countries. Traps can arise not just across geographical location such as national boundaries, but also within dispersed collections of individuals affiliated by ethnicity, religious beliefs or clan[15].

Jeffrey Sachs is perhaps the economist who has best brought to light and analyzed the poverty trap which paralyzes the world's poorest countries.

He explains that being caught in a poverty trap means struggling to live, struggling to eat, day by day, with no surplus money to invest in the future, and therefore no hope out getting out of the cycle of poverty. Country which is being ensnared in poverty trap means lacking "the financial means to make the necessary investments in infrastructure, education, healthcare systems, and other vital needs."[16] Because of this trap, the poorest countries are caught in a "downward spiral of disease, violence, impoverishment, unplayable debt and ecological catastrophe".

The UN Millennium Article, coordinated by Jeffrey Sachs, has issued a paper on Africa's poverty trap in 2004. The paper identifies "five structural reasons that have made sub-Saharan Africa the most vulnerable region in the world to a persistent poverty trap:
I. Very high transport costs and small market size
II. Low-productivity agriculture
III. A very high disease burden
IV. Adverse geopolitics
V. Very slow diffusion of technology from abroad

Because of these five structural problems, rural Africa "is basically unable to generate enough of an economic surplus above survival levels that could be invested sufficiently to overcome these conditions." Thus, "tropical Africa, even the well-governed parts, is stuck in a poverty trap, too poor to achieve robust, high levels of economic growth and, in many places, simply too poor to grow at all." [17]

An Oxfam briefing paper entitled "The Rural Poverty Trap" (published in August 2006) shows how the 96% of the world's farmers who live in developing countries face handicaps in every aspect of agricultural trade compared with people in the industrialized world. Essentially, the agricultural sectors of the world's poorest countries are left with no chance to grow, seeing that local producers are facing increasing difficulties in selling their products because of export dumping by productive countries and import barriers imposed by these same countries, and when they succeed in selling their produce, they face tariffs, unstable prices, and declining market shares. [18]

Global poverty:

a) 4 billion people live in the developing world
b) 1.2 billion people live on less than $1 a day. An additional 2 billion people live on less than $2 a day
c) 800 million people suffer from hunger
d) 30 million people die from hunger every year
e) 1/5 of the world’s children receive an insufficient intake of calories or protein
f) 18 million people die each year of poverty-related causes =1/3 of deaths worldwide
g) 16% of the people on the planet live without clean drinking water
h) 34% are without access to sanitation
i) 16% live in inadequate housing
j) 14% live without healthcare services of any kind
k) More than 110 million children are out of school
l) 94% of the world income goes to 40% of the world population, while 60% of people live only with 6% of the world income.[19]
GDP is the total value of goods and services produced in the economy during a given period. GNP is the value of total incomes earned by domestically based producers and factors of production. GDP is used to measure domestic economic activity. GNP is better as a measure of the income of domestic residents.

The problem of such indicators is that they are not an adequate measure of the well-being of people. Not only does it not take into account income distribution, but it does not always succeed in giving a sense of the way people are living: they could be earning a sufficient income but may have no access to healthcare, sanitation, or education in a disintegrating environment.

Poverty line is line of level of income below which one cannot afford to purchase all the resources required to live. The international $1-a-day standard was introduced in the World Bank Development Report 1990: Poverty. Living under $1 a day means daily consumption of all goods and services comparable to the amount of goods and services that can be bought in the US for $1. According to the World Bank, an international poverty line measures the degree of deprivation across countries".[20]

However, there are problems with the $1 poverty line as there are several aspects of poverty it does not take into account or fails to show: that it does not take into account cost of living differentials within countries. $1 will buy different amounts of goods in urban and rural areas. It only values goods which are delivered on the market. In many poor countries people grow and rear food and animals for their own consumption, a process which is not captured by measures of income and consumption based on the measurements of the purchase of goods sold as commodities.[21]

Jeffrey Sachs: Terrorists’ "staging areas […] are unstable societies beset by poverty, unemployment, rapid population growth, hunger and lack of hope. Without addressing the root causes of that instability, little will be accomplished in stanching terror."

There are "strong linkages between extreme poverty abroad and the threats to national security. Poverty abroad can indeed hurt us at home, and has repeatedly done so."[22]

Mohammed Yunus: "Poverty is a threat to peace." "Peace is threatened by unjust economic, social and political order, absence of democracy, environmental degradation and absence of human rights. […] The frustrations, hostility and anger generated by abject poverty cannot sustain peace in any society. For building stable peace, we must find ways to provide opportunities for people to live decent lives."[23]

The British Department for International Development has found a strong correlation between poverty and insecurity. "All other things being equal, a country at $250 GDP per capita has an average 15% risk of experiencing a civil war in the next five years. At a GDP per capita of $5,000, the risk of civil war is less than 1%". Additionally, "inequality and exclusion exacerbate insecurity. Where ethnic minorities are subject to political discrimination, conflict is ten times more likely to occur. "[24]

Poverty is forcing people to damage their environment (by cutting down trees, polluting water supplies, killing rare animals for food), adding to the global environmental crisis which affects us all. No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which by far the greater part of the numbers are poor and miserable. -- Adam Smith

International solutions of Poverty are:
Ø increase development aid
Ø reform the international trading system via the WTO
Ø reform the international financial institutions (IMF and World Bank)
Ø Coordinate the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals set by the UN ember countries in 2000 to create "a true and formidable international agency on behalf of women as part of the multilateral UN system"[25],

Education and poverty:

Much of the above debate is set against the backdrop of the formal economy - a world in which people are hired into an occupational hierarchy and progress within it according to their skills and abilities. An extremely important context, however, for a discussion of poverty is that part of production which takes place outside the formal sector, much of which is characterized by self employment in rural and peri-urban areas. There has therefore been much interest in examining the extent to which education affects production patterns in those activities. It has been shown that primary schooling, for example, helps to increase the productivity of peasant farmers, particularly when they have access to the other inputs needed to enhance their production. It has been shown also that the earnings of the self-employed, including those in urban and informal sector activities, are higher for the educated than for the uneducated. Furthermore, it has been demonstrated that increasing the schooling of women brings beneficial effects for their own control of fertility, for their own health, and that of their families.

Thus Human Capital Theory and in a different sense Correspondence Theory both provide a set of implications for policies to alleviate poverty. Broadly speaking, the former implies that an effective anti-poverty strategy should incorporate the enhancement of education and skills amongst poor households. This will enhance their productivity in the informal urban and rural economy, and it will also increase their eligibility for paid employment in the formal sector and for advancement once they are employed. Correspondence Theory similarly implies that increasing levels of schooling in the labor force are likely to be functional to the process of employment growth. However it does not necessarily imply a benign impact for those school leavers who fail to secure access to the formal sector2.

Human Capital Theory draws links between education and poverty in terms of education as a means of poverty reduction; another significant linkage runs the other way - i.e. the effect of macro- and micro-level poverty on levels of education. At the macro-level, it is generally the case that levels of enrolment correlate with GNP. Countries with low per capita incomes tend to have low enrolment ratios. However there are a number of exceptions to this rule. So how education is is related to poverty and what all measures have been taken by our responsible government for this scene shall be discussed below on Right to Education.

Under the President ship of A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, this bill was passed, which states as follows-India’s greatest resource is its people. The full potential of our human resources has yet to be effectively utilized. In 2001, India’s literacy rate stood at 65.38 percent having made remarkable strides since independence. However, about one-third of the population is still illiterate.

Article 21A Right to Education:

The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of six to fourteen years in such manner as the State may, by law, determine.

The journey of the right to education from being initially enumerated in the directive principles to being declared a fundamental right  has been a huge struggle and a triumph, for activists, child rights advocates, educationists and NGOs working on education all over the country.

In 1950, the architects of the Indian Constitution stipulated that every child up to the age of 14 years should be provided education by 1960. But successive governments have only extended this deadline by 10 years. In 1993, in a landmark judgment, the Hon’ble Supreme Court, in the case of Mr. Unni Krishnan[26], pronounced that basic education (education up to the age of 14 years) is a fundamental right of every child.

Original Article 45 of the Constitution incorporated the duty of the state to provide free and compulsory education to all children up to the age of 14 by 1960, as a Directive Principle. Successive governments have continued to extend this deadline. After Fifty two years, 86th Constitutional Amendment Act resulted in the Right to Free and Compulsory Education being made a Fundamental Right.

Next case, which is referred here, is Bandhua Mukti Morcha v. U.O.I.[27] where the Hon’ble apex court held that right to education is a part of right to life. The dignity of an individual which includes basic requirements for subsistence includes right to education. Without right to education the concept of the right to life under Article 21 and the dignity of an individual are just a dream which is far from realization. The State Government is under an obligation to make endeavor to provide educational facilities at all levels to its citizens.

The declarations of the right to education as a fundamental right, has been further upheld and recently confirmed by the eleven-Judge Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court in T.M.A. Pai Foundation v. State of Karnataka

In addition to the declaration and amendment declaring the right to education as a fundamental right, several States in India have passed legislation making primary education compulsory. These Acts, however, remain unenforced due to various socio-economic and cultural factors as well as administrative and financial constraints. The central government which has placed the responsibility of education on state instead of parents and therefore advocates for community involvement decentralization of planning and management of school education to Panchayati Raj institutions and other efforts for encouraging primary education.

As per article 26 of UN declaration of Human Rights, it has been clearly stated that "Everyone has the right to education…directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms".

India is yet to notch up creditable achievements in various segments of education - literacy, universal enrolment, lowering the dropout rate, improving quality and making the system more relevant. Half the students in the Indian education system fail at the secondary level. They often do not continue with their studies. Only six per cent of the youth in the 18-23 years bracket go in for higher education in India. The quality of many primary schools is appallingly low. One in five children is over or under age, one in three children drops out before completing the primary cycle; and one in two children does not have clean drinking water at school. A recent study in rural India found that not a single grade 5 student had mastered grade 2 competencies in Hindi or mathematics.

Vulnerable groups are often deprived of educational opportunities. The literacy rate in India varies from 90 percent for rich urban males to a mere 17 per cent for the poor. The difference between the primary enrolment rate of landless peasant households and medium to large landowners is almost 20 percentage points.

The education profile of India varies considerably from state to state, with educational progress depending more on political commitment than economic resources. The best example is Kerala, which has a literacy rate of 90 percent but an income of around $ 1000, compared to Punjab which has a literacy rate of only 60 per cent despite an income of over $ 2000. At present, about three-quarters of children denied education live in six states - Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.

In this context, Prof. Amartya Sen says: The elusive goal of providing free and compulsory education until the age of 14 within a few years has been regularly reiterated, without any effective steps being taken to reach it.

India has the dubious distinction of having the largest adult illiterate population in the world. It also has the largest number of children out of primary school (over 20 per cent of the global total). In the report on Human Development in South Asia, 1998 Mahbub ul Haq had pointed out the long distance India had traveled since Independence: adult literacy rate nearly tripled from 18 per cent in 1951 to 52 percent in 1995, the number of schools went up from 2.30 to 7.44 lakhs, the number of teachers from 6.24 to 28.36 lakhs and school children from 1.92 to 14.94 crores. But all this was inadequate compared to the requirement.

A report of the Ministry of the Human Resources Development in 1997 estimates that 63 million children in the age group of 6-14 years are at present not attending school. Nearly one third of those under the age of 16 were engaged in child labor - many in hazardous industries.

Rest everything can be inferred about the state of affairs of education and poverty in India.

v Lewis, Stephen. Race against Time. Toronto: Anansi Press, 2005
v Prahalad, C.K. The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2006
v Sachs, Jeffrey. The End of Poverty. New York: Penguin Press, 2005
v Todaro, Michael P, Stephen C. Economic Development. 9th edition, Addison Wesley, 2006

ü URL retrieved on 25th September 2007
ü URL retrieved on 26th September 2007

[1] "Program of Action of the World Summit for Social Development", World Summit for Social Development 2002,
[2] "Poverty Traps",
[3] "The Geography of Poverty",
[4] Michael P. Todaro and Stephen C. Smith, Economic Development, 9th ed. (Addison Wesley, 2006), 227
[5] "The Geography of Poverty",
[6] "Rural Poverty Report 2001: Key Messages,
[7] "Rural Poverty Report 2001",
[8] Michael P. Todaro and Stephen C. Smith, Economic Development, 9th ed. (Addison Wesley, 2006), 227-229
[9] Michael P. Todaro and Stephen C. Smith, Economic Development, 9th ed. (Addison Wesley, 2006), 231
[10] "Indigenous Peoples,
[11] "Indigenous peoples and rural poverty",
[12] "Indigenous peoples",
[13] "Poverty Traps", Santa Fe Institute,
[15] "Poverty Traps",
[16] Jeffrey Sachs, "Getting Through the Bottleneck", Our Planet, February 2003, (accessed November 12, 2006)
[17] "Ending Africa's Poverty Trap." Brookings Papers on Economic Activity (2004). 12 Nov. 2006
[18] Tom Lines, Gonzalo Fanjul, Penny Fowler, and Celine Charveriat. The Rural Poverty Trap. Oxfam. 2006. 1 Nov. 2006
[19] Mohammed Yunus, Nobel lecture (Oslo City Hall, Norway, December 10, 2006)
[21] United Nations Development Program, Human Development Report 1997, Oxford 1997.
[22] Jeffrey Sachs, The End of Poverty (New York: Penguin Press, 2005), 330-331
[23] Mohammed Yunus, Nobel lecture (Oslo City Hall, Norway, December 10, 2006)
[24] Fighting poverty to build a safer world: a strategy for security and development, Department for International Development. (
[25] Stephen Lewis, Race Against Time (Toronto: Anansi Press, 2005).
[26] Unni Krishnan J.P. v. State of Andhra Pradesh, AIR 1993 SC 2178
[27] MANU/SC/0051/1983

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