One in three of the world's poorest people are living in India, the world's second-fastest growing economy, according to a new study by the World Bank.
While new figures show that the number of those in extreme poverty around the world - surviving on 82 pence per day or less - has declined significantly, India now has a greater share of the world's poorest than it did thirty years ago. Then it was home to one fifth of the world's poorest people, but today it accounts for one-third - 400 million.
The study, The State of the Poor: Where are the Poor and Where are the Poorest?, found the number of extremely poor people had declined from half the world's population in 1981 to one fifth in 2010, but voiced concern at its increase in Sub-Saharan Africa and continuing high level in India.
World Bank president Jim Yong Kim said while the overall decline was "remarkable progress", the remaining 1.2 billion people living in extreme poverty was "a stain on our collective conscience." His colleague, World Bank chief economist Kaushik Basu, who until last year was economic advisor to Indian prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh, said the figures called for the world's wealthier countries to do more.
"We have made strides in cutting down poverty, but with nearly one-fifth of the world population still below the poverty line, not enough. Directing investment towards the poor will require coordinated effort by the Bank, our country partners, and the international development community; and will, let's face it, entail sacrifice on the part of those who are fortunate enough to be better off," he said.
The scale of continuing extreme poverty in India, despite its economy nudging growth rates of nine per cent in recent years, highlights what government strategists have called its "ticking time bomb." Its population is expected to reach 1.5 billion and become the world's largest nation by 2026 but its economy is not growing fast enough to create the 20 million new jobs per year they will need to prevent poverty increasing further.
Its problems are compounded by poor health services, child malnutrition and inadequate education and training. Almost half of pupils drop out of school by the age of 13 and only one in ten people have received any form of job training.
The perception of India as a fast-growing economy however has seen developed countries significantly reduce their aid. The United States has announced a 16 per cent reduction while Britain has announced it will end its £280 million per year aid programme.
Thomas Chandy of Save The Children said 200 million people had been lifted from poverty in the last two decades but the recent economic growth had left one third of the population untouched. "India's status has gone down despite the economic growth, inequality has widened which makes the poor poorer. In child mortality, infant mortality and maternal mortality, India seems to have the largest populations in all these categories. We would like to see focused interventions [because] the most difficult areas remain untouched," he said.