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Meaning Of Poverty

Poverty is a state in which an individual lacks the financial means and critical items necessary to maintain a minimal level of living.

It is the most challenging task that independent India has ever faced. Poor people might be landless villagers, jhuggi and slum residents in cities and towns, daily wage employees on construction sites, child labourers, or even beggars.

According to the 2011-12 Poverty Report, around 270 million (or 27 crore) people in India live in poverty.

This indicates that India has the world’s highest concentration of poor people, with one in every four people living in poverty.

Poverty As Seen By Social Scientists

Apart from income and consumption levels, social scientists examine poverty from a variety of views. These are the aspects.

  1. Malnutrition leading to poor resistance to disease
  2. Lack of access to healthcare
  3. Lack of job opportunities
  4. Lack of access to sanitation and safe drinking water and so on.
  5. Poor level of literacy

Two Typical Cases Of Poverty

The following two examples show the several sides of poverty, including a lack of enough food, housing, healthcare, and education, as well as access to safe drinking water and sanitation. Additionally, they show a lack of a stable source of income.

Urban Case

Ram Saran is a daily wage labourer in a wheat mill in the Jharkhand district of Ranchi. When he is working, he makes around t 1500 every month.

He provides for his family of six, in addition to providing money to his elderly parents. His wife and son are also employed, but none of his four children are enrolled in school. The family rents a one-room house on the city’s outskirts. Children who are underweight lack sufficient clothing and footwear and lack access to healthcare.

Rural Case

Lakha Singh lives in a tiny hamlet near Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, as a landless labourer. He gets $50 each day by doing odd chores for growers.

Usually, he receives food or another item in exchange for cash. He is jobless, and his family of eight lives in a kuchha hut in the village’s borders. They lack access to healthcare and are unable to purchase new clothing or even soap or oil.

Poverty Line

It is an invisible choice that every nation uses to calculate its poverty level. It changes according to the season, location, and country.

The most often used measure of poverty is income or consumption levels. Individuals are classified as poor if their income or consumption falls below a specified minimum level’ (poverty threshold required to meet basic requirements.

Poverty Line Estimation In India

In India, a subsistence level or minimal level of food need (as measured by its calorific content), clothes, footwear, fuel, lighting, educational and medical requirements, and so on are established for the purpose of determining the poverty line.

Because the type of labour and the pricing of products varies in rural and urban locations, the calorific need and expenditure per capita are also variable. 

yearRural areaUrban Area
Minimum calorie requirement per day24002100
Minimum level of earning per month 2000₹328₹454
2011-12₹ 816₹1000

Organisations Involved In Estimating Poverty Line

The National Sample survey organisation conducts surveys to determine the poverty line (NSSO). It was formed in 1950 as part of the Government of India’s Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.

It conducts surveys every five years. It is India’s main organisation performing regular socioeconomic surveys.

International organisations such as the World Bank employ a common standard technique to determine the poverty line in different nations and to compare them. According to this technique, the poverty line is defined as the level of minimal daily availability of the equivalent of $1 per person.

Indicators For Poverty

Social exclusion and vulnerability are the most often utilised markers of poverty in poverty study.

Social Exclusion: Social exclusion refers to living in a poor neighbourhood among poverty and being excluded from the social equality enjoyed by better-off individuals in better neighbourhoods.

In India, the caste system is built on the premise of social isolation. Individuals belonging to a certain caste were denied equal access to services, perks, and opportunities. This increased poverty more than the reduced income did.


Poverty vulnerability is a measurement that indicates the increased probability of particular populations becoming or becoming poor in the future. Members of a backward caste or individual, such as a widow, physically disabled individual, or so on.

Vulnerability is quantified by examining the numerous alternatives accessible to different communities in terms of assets, education, employment, and health, as well as their capacity to deal with various threats such as natural calamities.

Vulnerable groups are those who are more at risk during times of natural disaster.

Poverty Trends In India

India’s poverty ratio has decreased from around 45 percent in 1993-1994 to 37.2 percent in 2004-05. In 2011-12, the percentage of individuals living below the poverty line decreased further to around 22%. If the trend continues, the percentage of individuals living below the poverty line may fall to less than 20% in the next few years.

Although the proportion of individuals living in poverty decreased during the preceding two decades (1973–1993), the total number of poor people decreased from 407 million in 2004–05 to 270 million in 2011–12.

Group Vulnerable To Poverty

In India, poverty varies significantly between social groups and economic divisions. Households belonging to Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) are considered socially vulnerable (STs).

Rural landless labour families and urban casual labour households are economically vulnerable populations. However, with the exception of Scheduled Tribes, all of these groups have shown a drop in poverty during the previous several years.

There is a large gap amongst the members of poorer families. Female newborns, women, and elderly members of poor families do not have equity in access to the family’s resources. As a result, they are frequently referred to as the poorest of the poor.

Inter-State Disparities

Each state has a different percentage of poor people. According to 2011-12 estimates, the HCR (Head Count Ratio) for all of India was 21.9 percent. Madhya Pradesh, Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Odisha all have poverty levels higher than the national average.

Bihar and Odisha remain the two poorest states in the country, with poverty rates of 33.7 and 37.6 percent, respectively. Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, and Uttar Pradesh all have significant rural-urban poverty rates.

In states like Kerala, Jammu and Kashmir, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, and West Bengal, poverty has decreased significantly. States that have been successful in eliminating poverty have used a number of strategies.


  1. Jammu & Kashmir has produced a wide range of economic activity across the state, transforming potential in a variety of areas into job possibilities.
  2. Punjab and Haryana had rapid agricultural growth as a result of the Green Revolution’s impacts.
  3. In Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, public distribution of foodgrains at reduced rates has aided in poverty reduction.

Global Poverty Scenario

Although serious economic poverty has decreased globally from 43% in 1990 to 22% in 2008 (according to the World Bank), there are still significant regional variations.

China’s poverty rate has decreased from 88.3 percent in 1981 to 14% in 2008 to just 1.9 percent in 2013. However, this reduction has not been as severe in South Asian nations (India, Pakistan,Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan).

Poverty is declining in South-East Asia and China as a result of fast economic expansion and substantial investment in human resource development. Poverty has also returned in certain former communist nations, such as Russia, where it was previously declared non-existent.

The United Nations’ new Sustainable Development Goal promotes reducing all forms of poverty by 2030.

Causes Of Poverty In India

Prior to 1947, economic progress was slow under British colonial rule. They inhibited traditional handicrafts and industrial expansion, hence limiting work options and income growth.

Economic development remained low for many years after independence, and due to population growth, per capita income growth remained low, resulting in increased poverty.

Population growth increased the number of job searchers, who were forced to accept low-wage occupations in urban areas, resulting in poverty spreading to towns and cities.

Socio-cultural (traditions) and economic factors contribute to increased spending, which increases poverty. The Green Revolution increased agricultural potential, but only in a few sections of the nation.

Because land and other resources are distributed unfairly, there are also significant economic differences. Land reforms have not been implemented effectively, and a lack of appropriate land resources also contributes to the poverty of many people.

Small farmers borrow money for seeds, fertilisers, and pesticides, among other things, and then default on their payments, falling into a debt trap. This high degree of debt is both a cause and result of poverty.

Anti-Poverty Measures In India

Social welfare has been a primary priority of India’s developmental strategy.

The government’s current anti-poverty plan is based on two aims

Promotion Of Economic Growth

During the previous several years, the government has focused on economic development. Economic development was very slow until the 1980s, but has greatly accelerated since then, resulting in major poverty reduction. Economic development and poverty reduction are closely linked.

Economic growth expands opportunities and provides the resources necessary for human development investment. Economic development motivates parents to send their children to school (particularly the female child) in the aim of earning a higher economic return on their investment in education.

The poorest may not benefit directly from economic progress. Due to the agricultural sector’s lack of growth, a substantial number of people remain poor in rural regions.

Targeted Anti-Poverty Programmes

Beginning in 1990, the government established focused anti-poverty programmes. Due to insufficient management and inappropriate targeting, the outcomes of these programmes have been mixed.

Additionally, some schemes overlap with others. As a result, the benefits of these programmes are not reaching the deserving poor in their whole. As a result, the government is now placing a greater focus on the effective supervision of all these programmes.

The Challenges To Poverty Reduction

Poverty reduction is a significant concern in India, owing to the large differences across regions and rural and urban areas. Additionally, poverty should include not simply a lack of food, but other issues such as education, healthcare, housing, job stability, gender equality, and dignity.

These provide us with an understanding of human poverty. In the following 10-15 years, poverty reduction is likely to be slower.

Along with anti-poverty efforts, the government should prioritise the following:

  1. Universal free elementary education.
  2. Decrease in population growth.
  3. Higher economic growth.
  4. Empowerment of women and weaker sections.

NCERT questions & answers from poverty as a Challenge

Question 1

Describe how the poverty line is estimated in India.

Answer: In India, the poverty line is calculated by taking into account a minimum level of food, clothing, footwear, fuel and light, educational and medical requirements, and so on. 

These physical quantities are multiplied by the rupee prices.

The way the poverty line is calculated now is based on how many calories a person is supposed to eat. Cereals, legumes, vegetables, milk, oil, and sugar, among other foods, all provide these calories. 

How many calories a person needs depends on how old they are and what kind of work they do. 

In rural India, the recommended daily calorie requirement is 2,400 calories per person; in urban areas, the recommended daily calorie requirement is 2,100 calories per person.

Rural residents have a higher caloric requirement than city dwellers, as they perform more physical labour. The poverty line was set at $816 per month in rural areas and $1,000 per month in urban areas, based on 2011-12 fiscal year calculations.

Question 2

Do you think that the present methodology of poverty estimation is appropriate?

Answer: I believe that the current methodology for estimating poverty is ineffective because each country uses an arbitrary line that is acceptable for its current level of development and internationally recognised minimum social standards. For example, in the United States, a person without a car may be considered impoverished. In India, owning a car is still considered a luxury..

Question 3

Describe poverty trends in India since 1973.

Answer : India’s poverty rate has decreased significantly, from over 55% in 1973 to 36% in 1993. 

In 2000, the percentage of people living in poverty decreased even further, to approximately 26%. 

If current trends continue, the percentage of people living in poverty could decline to less than 20% within a few years. 

Although the percentage of people living in poverty decreased during the first two decades of the twentieth century (1973–1993), the total number of poor people remained relatively stable for a long period of time at approximately 320 million. 

According to the most recent estimates, the world’s poor population has shrunk to approximately 260 million.

Question 4

Discuss the major reasons for poverty in India.


The following are the main causes of poverty in India:

  • Colonial rule: India suffered a prolonged period of economic stagnation under British colonial rule. The actions of the colonial government harmed traditional handicrafts and stunted the growth of industries such as textiles.
  • High growth in population: One of the primary causes of Indian poverty is the country’s rapid population growth, especially among the poor. The poor are illiterate and have a conservative mentality. As a result, they are either unaware of available methods of contraception or believe that contraception is unnecessary. Additionally, they view a male child as an asset, i.e. a potential source of income and stability in later life.
  • Low rate of economic development: India’s real growth rate has historically been lower than necessary. As a result, job openings have decreased. This has been accompanied by a rapid increase in population.
  • Unemployment: India’s high rate of unemployment and underemployment is another significant factor contributing to the country’s high poverty rate. The number of job applicants is growing faster than the number of available positions.
  • Unequal distribution: While India’s national income has increased since 1951, it has not been distributed evenly among the various socioeconomic groups in the country. A sizable portion of the growing revenue has gone to a small number of wealthy individuals. They’ve obtained significantly more money. The bulk of the population lives in poverty.
  • Social factors: Economic development has been hampered by the caste system, joint family system, religious beliefs, inheritance law, and other societal problems.

Question 5

Identify the social and economic groups which are most vulnerable to poverty in India.


The following social groups are at risk of poverty:

  1. Scheduled castes households
  2. Scheduled tribes households

The following economic groups are at risk of poverty:

  1. Rural agricultural labour households
  2. Urban casual labour households

Question 6

Give an account of inter-state disparities of poverty in India.

Answer: Each state in India has a unique proportion of impoverished people. While poverty has decreased in all states since the early 1970s, the poverty ratio varies by state. Madhya Pradesh, Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Odisha all had a higher rate of poverty than the national average. 

Bihar and Orissa remain the two poorest states, with poverty rates of 33.7 percent and 32.6 percent, respectively.

Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, and Uttar Pradesh all have large rural and urban poverty populations. On the other hand, states such as Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Haryana, Kerala, Punjab, and West Bengal have seen significant reductions in poverty. 

Public food distribution with a strong emphasis on hum

an resource development, rapid agricultural growth, and land reform initiatives are just a few of the factors assisting these states in reducing poverty.

Question 7

Describe global poverty trends.

Answer:  The proportion of people in developing countries living on less than $1.90 per day has decreased from 35% in 1990 to 10.68% in 2013. The global rate of poverty has decreased significantly. However, the decline varies significantly by region. China and Southeast Asian countries have seen significant reductions in poverty as a result of rapid economic growth and massive investments in human resource development.

South Asian countries have seen an equally rapid decline (India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Bhutan). Sub-Saharan Africa’s poverty rate has decreased from 54% in 1990 to 41% in 2013. It has also been resurrected in a number of former socialist countries, including Russia, where it was previously non-existent. Latin America has also seen a decline in poverty, from 16% in 1990 to 5.4 percent in 2013.

Question 8

Describe the current government strategy of poverty alleviation.

Answer:  Income or consumption levels are frequently used to quantify poverty. If an individual’s income or consumption falls below a predetermined “minimum level” necessary to meet basic needs, he or she is classified as poor.

Question 9

Answer the following questions briefly:

(i) What do you understand by human poverty?

(ii) Who are the poorest of the poor?

(iii) What are the main features of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005?

Answer :

  1. Human poverty is a broad term that refers to more than a scarcity of resources. It is the denial of an individual’s political, social, and economic prospects for a “reasonable” standard of living.
  2. Human poverty is defined by illiteracy, a lack of employment opportunities, a lack of access to adequate healthcare and sanitation, and discrimination on the basis of caste and gender.
  3. Women, the elderly, and female infants are routinely denied access to the family’s resources in an equitable manner. 
  4. As a result, women, children (especially girls), and the elderly are ranked among the poorest.
  5. Under the National Rural Employment Act, each rural household in 200 districts receives 100 days of guaranteed employment each year. 
  6. Eventually, the system will be expanded to 600 districts. Women would be eligible for approximately one-third of the jobs proposed. 
  7. Additionally, the central government will create National Employment Guarantee Funds. State governments, likewise, will establish State Employment Guarantee Funds to carry out the programme.
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