October 3rd, 2011
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Poverty line debate: Ahluwalia to clarify stand

Montek Singh Aluhwalia New Delhi: Even as the entire country ridicules the Planning Commission’s Rs. 32-a-day definition of poverty line, the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, will make a statement today to clarify the panel’s stand. He will also meet Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh to discuss the issue.

The Planning commission is also expected to revise the previous affidavit submitted to the Supreme Court. As per the affidavit, a family of five spending less than Rs 4,824 (at June, 2011, prices) in urban areas will fall in the BPL (Below Poverty Line) category. The expenditure limit for a family in rural areas has been fixed at Rs 3,905.

The government said that the Planning Commission’s affidavit on number of people living Below Poverty Line (BPL) was not the final document and that these figures could undergo a change. Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni said, “The Planning Commission had given an affidavit. When we asked for information from the panel regarding it, we were told that it is an initial document and not the final document.”

“These figures could undergo a change, who knows some other statistics may come up, which is acceptable to the Planning Commission. There is concern among people. There is certain disquiet in the civil society and some sections. They believe the statistics are perhaps somewhat removed from reality,” she added.

Mr Ahluwalia who met the Prime Minister yesterday is believed to have discussed the fallout of the controversy relating to the affidavit, which said that persons consuming items worth more than Rs. 32 per day in urban areas (Rs. 26 in rural areas) are not poor.

Members of the National Advisory Council (NAC) and several leading economists challenged the Planning Commission’s definition of poverty.”On Rs. 32 a day, you know only dogs and animals can live.” He further said, “People who are spending below Rs. 32 (a day)… they are poorest of the poor. You can call them destitute; you can call them people living in sub-human level,” NC Saxena said.

The number of poor entitled to BPL benefits, as per the affidavit, has been estimated at 40.74 crore, as against 37.2 crore estimated at the time of accepting the Tendulkar Committee report. Officials in the Planning Commission have said that providing benefits to more persons would defeat the purpose of the anti-poverty programme.

National Advisory Council (NAC) member Aruna Roy and Harsh Mander have  challenged the Rs 32 per person poverty definition of the Commission. Other members of the NAC, which is headed by Congress President Sonia Gandhi, too, had opposed Commission’s definition.



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