About 38 per cent of the country’s population are poor, a government committee constituted to estimate poverty has said.
The figure is 10 per cent higher than the present poverty estimate of 28.5 per cent.
The committee, based on new methodology, has taken into consideration indicators for health, education, sanitation, nutrition and income, as per the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) survey of 2004-05, to reach at new poverty estimation for India. The survey had said India’s population was 1.1 billion that year.
A committee headed by S.D. Tendulkar, former chairperson of the PM Economic Advisory Committee (PMEAC), has used a different methodology, in its preliminary findings, to reach at the 38 per cent figure.
Since 1972, poverty has been defined on basis of the money required to buy food worth 2,100 calories in urban and 2,400 calories in rural areas.
Of late the experts have disputed the criteria.
In June this year, a government committee headed by N.C. Saxena estimated 50 per cent Indians were poor, as against the Planning Commission’s 2006 figure of 28.5 per cent.
In 2007, the Arjun Sengupta of the National Commission for Enterprises in Unorganised Sector had said that 77 per cent of Indians were poor. The government had, however, rejected both the claims.
“The new methodology is a complex scientific basis aimed at addressing the concerns raised over the present way of poverty estimation,” said Mihir Shah, member in-charge of rural development in the Planning Commission. He refused to endorse the 38 per cent figure, but admitted new poverty estimation would be higher than the existing one.
Correctly identifying the poor is crucial for exact targeting of scores of government schemes meant for the below poverty line (BPL) people. The Union government has spent Rs. 1,51,460 crore (Rs 1,510 billion) in the past four years for poor under just three major anti-poverty schemes.
“The expenditure will further increase with the government envisaging providing basic entitlement of food to all under National Food Security Act,” said a senior government functionary, who was not willing to be quoted.
On the basis of the Tendulkar Committee estimation of 8.32 crore BPL households, the government has estimated that additional annual food subsidy of Rs. 9,500 crore (Rs 90.5 billion) will be required, over Rs. 37,010 crore for financial year 2009-10.