ECONOMIC TRENDS

STANDARD OF LIVING

STANDARD OF LIVING

General.

For an assessment of the standard of living of the people, a sample survey was conducted at a few towns and villages[The research staff in this office conducted the survey at Amravati, Badnera, Dhamangaon, Daryapur, Morshi Anjangaon, Chandur Achalpur, and Dharni.] in the district. Statistical information regarding family budgets was collected from a number of families.

The observations regarding the standard of living as reflected in the income and expenditure patterns of the family budgets are given in the following pages.

During the course of this century, the concept of the standard of living has undergone considerable changes. The changes are in conformity with the changing patterns and modes of civilised existence. Broadly speaking, it. may be taken to mean the state of economic life of the people. It, however, depends not only upon economic condition of the people, but also on the state of education and social development. An analysis of the standard of living becomes a study of the constantly changing patterns of income and expenditure. Such an attempt is made in the pages that follow.

With the intellectual ferment and the spirit of modern education, many of the old ways of the life appeared to be insipid and contrary to the new outlook on life. The liberal ideas which were being advocated during the national liberation movement and the influence of democratic government have gradually changed the ideas of the standard of Jiving of individuals.

The material resources of life have been gradually increasing.  Though the increase in population counteracted, to some degree,  the increase in the material resources, the available aids to economic life are obviously better than before. Diversification of agricultural and mechanical production has resulted in the better supply of a number of new commodities. A number of articles of luxury, such as, radio sets, almirahs, wrist-watches, and fashionable garments, which were rarely found before, have become more common.

Besides the aids to economic life, social amenities, which have a definite impact on the standard of living of the people, have increased immensely. Educational facilities, which were meagre, are available to a great extent. Almost every sizable village has a primary school; every town or a bigger village has a high school. In Amravati district there are colleges imparting instruction in various faculties, such as, arts, science, commerce, law, medicine, engineering, agricultural science, etc.

A number of public as well as private libraries, recreational centres, cinema houses, community radio sets, etc. have contributed towards the bettering of the standard of living of the community as a whole. They have a strong impact on the outlook of the people.

For purposes of analysis, the standard of living of the people is conceived to be determined by six factors, viz., (1) income, (2) volume and pattern of consumption, (3) cost of living as reflected in the prices of consumer goods, (4) state of education, (5) social amenities and (6) housing conditions. The household is taken to be an unit of sampling. Taking average annual income as the basis of classification, the households are divided into three groups: -

Group 1.-Households with an annual income of Rs. 4,000 and above.

Group II.-Households with an annual income varying from Rs. 1,200 to Rs. 4,000.

Group III.-Households with an annual income below Rs. 1,200.

Group I.

People in the highest income group comprise landlords, mer chants, commission agents, doctors, pleaders, highly paid Government and non-Government officers, professors, industrialists, owners of transport companies, etc. The fixed income earners in this class, as in other classes who mainly comprise salaried persons and rent receivers have not benefited much due to rising prices and the fall in the purchasing power of money.

The annual income of persons in the class ranges between Rs. 4,000 and Rs. 25,000. The incomes of the agricultural landholders have inflated considerably as a result of the boom of cotton prices and prices of other cash crops. A characteristic feature of the post-war era has been the all-round appreciation of the prices of fixed assets. It has strengthened the economic position of rich agriculturists, industrialists and big merchants.

The pattern of consumption of these people differs considerably from that of the persons in the other two groups. The average  monthly expenditure or a family in this group amounts to Rs. 347. Expenditure on foodgrains, which is about Rs. 65, is  substantial because of the consumption of better quality and  varied articles of foodgrains. They spend more on vegetables, ghee, oils, milk and grocery. The most important constituents of expenditure are food, clothing, education, and house rent.

During the last few decades, remarkable changes have taken  place in the general pattern of expenditure of the whole com-  munity especially the families belonging to this group. A num-  ber of luxury goods, which were formerly rarely seen, have  become common items of household use. Radio sets, wrist-  watches, electric fans and costly furniture are found in a majo-  rity of households of this class. Comparatively well-off persons  possess refrigerators, motor bicycles, motor-cars and sofa sets.  With the influence of Western education and rise in money incomes in the post-war period, the spending habits of the people have assumed a varied character. Formerly, expenditure was confined to a few necessities of life. Now-a-days decency in dress is too much in the fore with the people in this income group. The costly varieties of cotton, woollen, nylon, rayon, decron and terylene cloth have entered in their shopping list. More attention is paid to health with the result that they spend more on food. Medicines form an important part of their annual budget. Educational expenditure is another significant constituent of a family budget of this group. In the case of some families this item absorbs about Rs. 1,500 to Rs. 4,000 per annum. Travelling has now become almost a habit and naturally there is a perpetual increase of expenditure on this item as well. In the case of rented houses, house rent varies from Rs. 30 to Rs. 60 in the urban areas. Very few persons, in this income group, in the rural areas are required to rent a house.

The cost of living in the urban areas is higher than that in the rural areas. This is attributable to five factors (i) wants of; the urban people are much more varied than those of their rural counterparts, (ii) there are numerous avenues of spending in the urban areas, (iii) house rent is higher in the towns, (iv) cost of services is higher in towns, and (v) prices of staple food-grains, vegetables, milk, etc., are higher in urban areas. It should, however, be noted that the benefit of lower cost of living in rural areas is offset by the existence of comparatively less sources of income.

The percentage of literacy is appreciably high in this income group though the number of educated women is smaller than that of men. The saving potential of the persons in this income group is in keeping with their higher income. Savings in insurance policies, prize bonds, unit trust and national savings certificates have become very popular among the people in this class. It should be noted here that savings in the form of national savings certficates exceeded the target set for the district in the last year. A fairly good number of persons in the class  are educated up to the graduation level.

Housing conditions in the urban areas are much better than those in the rural areas. The houses are ventilated, spacious and are provided with the usual amenities. Houses of even the rich persons in the rural areas are not so spacious and decent. House-building activities are on an increase in the towns, whereas villages have also begun to proceed in the line.

By virtue of their higher income, people in this group enjoy a better standard of living.

Group II

The middle income group comprises landholders, traders, employees in Government and private services, teachers, doctors, pleaders, etc. Agriculturists form the most important section of the people in this class. The annual income of the constituents ranges between Rs. 1,200 and Rs. 4,000. The average monthly income of a household in the rural area is Rs. 166 and that in the urban area is Rs. 162. With the constant rise in prices of agricultural commodities the money incomes, of the agricultural class have increased. This rise in money income has not, however, contributed to their economic well-being. The rise in income has been neutralised by the rising cost of living and increase in the rates of rural wages. Though the annual earnings of the salary earners have increased, their real income has not kept pace with their money income.

Cereals, clothing, milk, education and medicine constitute the main items of expenditure. The average monthly expenditure of a family in an urban area is Rs. 171 and that in rural area Rs. 154. An average family in this income group spends about Rs. 45 per month on cereals, Rs. 21 on clothing, Rs. 14 on milk and Rs. 13 - on medical requirements. The other grocery articles account for about Rs. 32, whereas vegetable consumption amounts to about Rs. 9 per month.

The propensity to consume of the people in this class also has undergone remarkable changes over the last few decades. Formerly, consumption was confined to jowar, wheat, tur dal, gram, mug, oils, vegetables, necessary grocery articles, coarse cloth, rough footwear, tobacco, bidis, etc. Living was very simple and the wants of life very few. Now-a-days the people have a tendency to eat better and more varied food. Expenditure on cloth has gone up to a great extent mainly because of the use of refined and superfine varieties. More weight is given to decency and fashion than to bare needs.

Education absorbs a sizable share of the expenditure of a family. With an increase in medical facilities and health-consciousness, the expenditure on medical treatment has gone up to form a large portion of the total expenditure. Entertainment such as cinemas and dramas has become a regular feature. This item absorbs about Rs. 3 per month. Travel habits of the people in this class have increased greatly. Hence, expenditure on travel forms a sizable percentage of the total.

The proportion of educated persons in this class is considerable. Though in the field of education of women much remains to be achieved, the number of educated men from this group is very large. The spread of education in rural areas is also noteworthy. The condition of houses of the people in this group is in keeping with their level of incomes. Not many people in the villages possess decent and well-built houses. The urban housing presents a complex picture on the other hand.

The people in the middle income group which covers the white-collared gentry in the urban areas and landholders and traders in the rural areas is an important economic and social class in this district.

Group III.

The low income group comprises poor peasants, tenants of land, landless labourers, craftsmen, village servants, forest workers, herdsmen; petty shopkeepers and unskilled workers. The annual income of the persons in this group is less than Rs. 1,200. They find it extremely difficult to make both ends meet. In their struggle for existence they have to resort to borrowing. In the absence of any assets which can be mortgaged they find it very difficult to get loans also. Landless labourers who are always at the mercy of landlords and big cultivators for getting employment find themselves unemployed during the period from January to June. Underemployment and instability of employment subject them to misery and a poor standard of living.

The total monthly expenditure of a family in this class on various items amounts to Rs. 93 in the urban areas and Rs. 77 in the rural areas. Expenditure on foodgrains is about Rs. 49 and Rs. 43 per month in the case of urban and rural families, respectively. Oils and vegetables account for about Rs. 16, whereas Rs. 14 to Rs. 20 are spent on clothing. An average family spends about Rs. 7 on milk, whereas a number of families in this group cannot afford to purchase even a small quantity of milk. For them milk and ghee are luxuries. Unless very much hardpressed, they do not spend on travelling, medicine and religious activities. Though some persons from this class may indulge in the luxury of going to the cinema, their economic position cannot afford it. Lower incomes and inflated expendi- ture have created an imbalance in the family budgets of persons belonging to this class.

To fill the gap between their income and expenditure they  very often resort to borrowing.

The Government of Maharashtra provides free education to students from this class. This has facilitated education for per-sons belonging to this class of society. Education of children  was formerly neglected because they were required to work in  order to supplement the earnings of their parents. Recently, conditions have improved to some extent in this respect.

The condition of their housing is unfavourable, Their abodes  are drab dwellings which are exposed to rains. The household equipment consists of brass and aluminium utensils, earthenware, scanty bedding sets and a few tools for work.

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