Poor Defining Poverty Line

Pilot effort in Pune to develop a methodology to define the poverty line in a bottom-up way.

Formal and official attempts to define the Poverty Line often follow a top-down perspective. They are outlined by scholars and academics in the field, and, being the basis of the provision of subsidies and other entitlements, are often influenced by politicians. Such definitions of the poverty line are non-participatory in nature; there is little or no involvement on part of the people who are actually impacted by such definitions of poverty.

PDPL is an exploratory study initiated by INHAF in Pune to involve the urban poor in defining the poverty line themselves. Pune has several dynamic unions and organizations of the urban poor who are sensitive to the impact that the poverty line has on their entitlements, benefits and development. With these member-based unions and organizations of the poor as partners, INHAF piloted the Poor Defining Poverty Line Initiative, inspired by the Asian Coalition for Housing Rights that conducted a similar study in 6 Asian countries between 2013 and 2014.

This work is seen as a special contribution to the poverty debate as also a rethink on the strategies, plans and projects for poverty reduction. It is possibly one of the first such efforts in the country’s urban sector and is meant to:

a) highlight the need for and the virtue of the bottom-up way of defining and measuring poverty, a subject of national concern and development planning and action (the poor who live poverty are well equipped to define it )
b) develop and demonstrate a participatory, consultative and community engaging methodology in doing so
c) contribute to demystification of the poverty line, at the top and the bottom, at the government and the city level
d) highlight the known deficiencies and inadequacies of the existing definition and the measuring method—the uni-dimensional, nutrition-based poverty line—to ascertain that poverty is a multifaceted and multidimensional phenomenon.


Defining the poverty line by the poor themselves through focus group discussions with members of 6 city based organisations/unions, surveys and case studies.

  • Booklets on Public Distribution System-Education – Skilling were created based on meetings with organisations of the poor and the Gokhale Institute and disseminated amongst communities to whom these would be relevant. 
  • Dr. Nilakantha Rath, an eminent economist credited with making the first systematic assessment of poverty in India, gave INHAF critical inputs on the Poor Defining Poverty Line study leading to a recalibration of datasets. 


Hamal Panchayat, Union of Auto-Rickshaw Drivers, Union of Rag-pickers, Union of Domestic Workers


Public Distribution System Booklets

Poor Defining Poverty Line Report