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Poverty moves with people

Kuensel online - April 27, 2012. "With a large part of the population living is remote isolated villages, poverty in Bhutan has largely been a rural phenomenon. It still continues to be so and, by early next year, it should be known whether the present government has succeeded in bringing down the incidence of rural income poverty from 23 percent to 15 percent, the theme of the 10th five year plan, which ends in June next year. But what is also emerging and growing together with the growth of the urban centres is urban poverty. Urban growth and poverty is fanned by unabated rural-urban migration, a trend that almost every country in the world went through, when urbanisation first began."

"It is in essence poverty migrating from the village to the town, together with the economic migrant, who believes that life will be much easier in the urban centres that have roads, buildings, cars, shops and theatres.

A poverty report on Bhutan that came out a decade ago pointed out that, while abject poverty was absent, there were incidences of urban poverty and, under prevailing conditions, it was likely to grow and proliferate.

It highlighted the high rate of rural-urban migration, shortage and rising cost of land and housing, and lack of sufficient urban services as conditions that breed urban poverty.  These conditions still prevail today.

There is no recent data on urban poverty, but the young volunteers in action, a youth wing of the Youth Development Fund, did a small case study of 32 children between 10 to 17 years, living and working in select locations of the Thimphu city.  Most had migrated from the village for a better employment and living opportunities.  They also did not have access to basic services, like clean water and sanitation, which are now included in a much more broader measure of poverty.

The vegetable market, nightclubs and workshop areas are not the only areas that have the urban poor.  Besides children, who collect trash to earn a living, instead of going to school, there are many makeshift homes hidden among the trees in the nooks and crannies of Thimphu valley, where the urban poor reside.

As disparities widen, it is the urban poor who are most vulnerable to eviction and loss of livelihood.

Perhaps the starkest revelation of urban poverty is the rising incidence of theft and burglary that mostly involves out of school and migrant youth without means of a livelihood.

With Bhutan’s internal migration rate at six percent, the highest in South Asia, poverty is most likely to change locations in the near future."

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