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Indian survey shows gap between town and country

Average city dweller has almost twice the spending power of an average villager

Indian survey shows gap between town and country

A vegetable market in Mumbai. Picture by Shutterstock

Christopher Joseph, Kochi

June 24, 2013

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An estimated five percent of Indians have only a quarter of a US dollar a day to cover all their needs, according an official government survey released late last week.

Most people in this bracket lives in rural villages, but the poorest city dwellers fare little better, subsisting on just 23 rupees a day – barely half a US dollar.

While highlighting the scale and plight of the nation’s poorest, the National Sample Survey results for 2011-12 also indicate a widening gulf between urban and rural Indians.

The findings, based on data collected over a year from thousands of respondents, are widely regarded as a prime indicator of India's prosperity levels.

They show that the average villager with a monthly disposable income of US$23 is 84 percent poorer than the average city dweller, who can afford to spend US$43 a month.

There is also a significant gap in family expenditure on education, which absorbs almost seven percent of the income of a city dweller, but only 3.5 percent of a villager’s income.

The last 20 years have seen a change in spending on tobacco and alcohol among urbanites, who have cut it by half from an average 2.3 percent of income to 1.4 percent.  The average villager spends 2.4 percent on these pleasures.

The survey also shows that, although the bulk of India's vegetables and dairy products are produced in rural areas, rural people actually have to spend more on them than their city cousins.  Some commentators say this suggests the increasing intervention of middlemen.

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