Kristian Bertel | Photography
Archive story
In this archive story we are having a firsthand meeting with the Rural poverty in India near Dongri, India.
Read the background story of this archive photo by the photographer.
Almost 70 percent of India's population lives in rural areas and some 20 million rural households are reported to be landless, while millions more have insecure rights to their land. Agricultural wage earners, smallholder farmers and casual workers in the non-farm sector constitute the bulk of poor rural people. Within these categories, women and tribal communities are the most deprived.
Almost 70 percent of India's population lives in rural areas and some 20 million rural households are reported to be landless, while millions more have insecure rights to their land. Agricultural wage earners, smallholder farmers and casual workers in the non-farm sector constitute the bulk of poor rural people. Within these categories, women and tribal communities are the most deprived.
Kristian Bertel, Photographer By Kristian Bertel, Photographer
– Updated on March 22, 2024

Dongri – Rural poverty in India

Rural poverty in India is the most striking feature is its diversity. The country's population of about 1.24 billion people is composed of several ethnic groups, speaking over 1,000 languages and following 6 major religions. Although the country saw strong economic growth in past years, poverty levels did not decline proportionately and the overall rate of growth has decreased recently. Poor rural people continue to live with inadequate physical and social infrastructure, poor access to services and a highly stratified and hierarchical social structure, characterized by inequalities in assets, status and power.

How many people are poor in India?

More than 300 million people in India are poor. With great efforts, India has managed to reduce the number of poor from 25 percent to about 27 percent in some decades. According to the recent estimates over 200 million people in rural areas are poor. And still, close to 1/3 of the total population in India lives below the poverty line and majority of poor lives in villages and rural India.

Poverty in rural areas of India
More than 400 million people in India still live in poverty, accounting for 1/3 of the world's poor. Poverty is most prevalent in rural areas such as in Dongri where the photograph was taken, with about 26 percent of rural people living in poverty, compared with about 14 percent of the urban population. Young people in rural areas are forced to migrate seasonally or permanently, without the skills and competencies required by India's rapidly modernizing economy. Poverty is deepest among members of scheduled castes and tribes in the country's rural areas. Large numbers of India's poorest people live in the country's semi-arid tropical region and in this area, shortages of water and recurrent droughts impede the transformation of agriculture that has been achieved elsewhere.

Poverty affects tribal people in forest areas, where loss of entitlement to resources has made them even poorer. In coastal fishing communities, people's living conditions are deteriorating because of environmental degradation, stock depletion and vulnerability to natural disasters. Poor people in the area face only agricultural and livestock productivity, limited income-generating opportunities and a social system that discriminates against women and disadvantaged people.

These poorest people are households headed by landless agricultural labourers and small and marginal farmers, owners of marginal land or wastelands, traditional artisans, women and young people lacking the skills needed for employment.

"Though 30 percent of rural population lives in a chronic condition of poverty but in the last 3 decades some improvement in the number has been seen because of anti-poverty schemes and migration from rural to urban areas"

Who are most poor in India?
Scheduled castes and tribes are the worst sufferers of rural poverty. Recently the poverty line has been revised for rural as well as urban areas. The new poverty line for rural areas is
27 rupees per day and for urban areas it is 30 rupees per day. Rural economy massively relies on agriculture. But farming in India depends upon unpredictable Monsoon leading to erratic yield. Hence water shortage, bad weather conditions and reoccurring droughts are also the reasons of poverty in rural areas. Extreme poverty compels many farmers to commit suicide.

Many rural areas are so poor that these even lack the basic facilities of sanitation, infrastructure, communication and education. The rural economy is becoming stagnate and with this India's overall economy is not growing at a pace with which it should be. There is not just a one cause of poverty as the Photographer has learned during his journeys in India, but many which lead to the vivacious Circle of poverty.

Causes of rural poverty in India
In certain rural areas geographical factors create conditions which lead to poverty. One of the most prominent geographical factors in India is unpredictable monsoons and weather which impact the crop production and yield. Natural calamities like flood, drought, cyclones and so on take their own toll and damage the crop, livestock and land. Heavy loss is caused by these results in poverty. Believe it or not but your economic status is defined by what you do and what you are determined to do.

"There are many personal factors that lead to poverty. One of these is sickness. Due to poverty families do not get enough food to eat and thus lack in immunity and they become prone to many diseases. So whatsoever they earn is utilized in the treatment of the same. Sickness in turn leads to more poverty"

Urban areas have beggars too
It is rightly said that poverty and sickness form a vicious partnership each helping the other to add to the miseries of most unfortunate of mankind. Laziness and not willing to work is another major reason of poverty in India that people just do not want to work. Even in urban areas you might have come across beggars, who are in good health but are not willing to work even if given some. They need easy money because they have an addiction to drinking, drugs and other social evils that all are adding to rural poverty, which is enough to make the entire family poor.

Social inequality leading to exclusion and marginalization
Societies cannot progress if certain sections of people are left-out simply because they happen to be from the "wrong" class, caste, ethnic group, race or sex. If the virus of color and race based discrimination has damaged the social set up of many countries in the West, the bacteria of caste division has undermined the cohesive social fabric of India. Lower caste people have traditionally been excluded from the mainstream society governed by the so-called 'Upper caste' communities'. They have historically lived isolated in the periphery of the villages and townships and subsisted doing only those tasks considered unfit for the other castes. Their un-touchability can be considered the worst form of rejection by the mainstream society. While considerable change has taken place in people's attitude since 1947, but the 'Lower caste' communities are still not satisfactorily absorbed in the mainstream society. Rural India where seventy percent of the population lives is still quite caste conscious compared with the urban society where education and financial well-being has largely erased the caste divisions.

Mahatma Gandhi tried to remove the social stigma of un-touchability by coining the label 'Harijan', which means god's people for them but with only partial success. The official label for about 170 million, which is around 14 percent of current total population, unfortunate lower caste people is 'Scheduled Caste'. Another segment of society that is still very much detached from the mainstream is the tribal community forming 8 percent of the population. These tribal people called 'Scheduled Tribe' have historically lived in secluded areas such as forests.

Rapid growth in population
Rapid growth in population also leads to poverty in rural India, where much developed medical and healthcare facilities in India have reduced the overall death rate but yet birthrate has not been controlled with effectiveness. Big families and limited resources result in poverty. Rural India depends upon agriculture for everything. But most of the farmers still rely on primitive methods of agriculture and with this the annual produce is often very less and moreover agriculture sector.

See this video about rural India made by The Indian Express.

"- As a photographer, there is a certain ambivalence when it comes to taking photos of poverty in India. There is a sense of responsibility in documenting the struggles of the people living in extreme poverty in India, while at the same time, there is the fear of exploiting someone else's suffering for one's own benefit.
On the one hand, there is the need to be able to show people around the world the harsh realities of life in India's most impoverished regions and photography is the perfect tool to do so. It has the power to evoke feelings of empathy and sympathy in people from all corners of the world, by showing the world at large a glimpse into the plight of the people in those areas", the Photographer says.

"- India is still underdeveloped to provide enough jobs. Faulty supply chain and mismanagement cause the farmers to suffer the most, where people at the top of the supply chain earn the maximum benefit of the farmer's hard work. But it should be another way round to uplift the rural India and to eradicaterural poverty"
, the Photographer says again.

Read also:  Maharashtra


Read also:  Maharashtra

More archive stories

India is a land full of stories. On every street, on every corner and in the many places in India, life is rushing by you as a photographer with millions of stories to be told. In the archive story above, you hopefully had a readable insight in the story that was behind the photo of an Indian man laying on the ground in Dongri. On this website of Kristian Bertel | Photography you can find numerous travel pictures from the photographer. Stories and moments that tell the travel stories of how the photographer captured the specific scene that you see in the picture. The photographer's images have a story behind them, images that all are taken from around India throughout his photo journeys. The archive stories delve into Kristian's personal archive to reveal never-before-seen, including portraits and landscapes beautifully produced snapshots from various travel assignments. The archive is so-far organized into photo stories, this one included, each brought to life by narrative text and full-color photos. Together, these fascinating stories tell a story about the life in India. India, the motherland to many people around the world, a land of unforgetable travel moments. The archive takes viewers on a spectacular visual journey through some of the most stunning photographs to be found in the photographer's archive collection. The photographer culled the images to reflect the many variations on the universal theme of beauty and everyday life in India. By adding these back stories the photographer's work might immensely enhanced the understanding of the photographs.