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HindustanTimes Sat,20 Sep 2014

Poverty numbers not linked with entitlements

HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, July 25, 2013
First Published: 22:31 IST(25/7/2013) | Last Updated: 22:33 IST(25/7/2013)

The Planning Commission's new poverty line will have no bearing on any government scheme as the poverty numbers are not linked with public entitlements any more.

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The government used to provide food entitlements under the Public Distribution System (PDS) based on the poverty line. The existing PDS entitlements covers 2001 population based on the 1993-94 poverty numbers.

Government officials said that under the National Food Security law - to be implemented in next six months - the commission has prepared state-wise coverage for getting subsidised food. "It is totally different exercise and has nothing to do with the new poverty numbers," a senior plan panel official said.

The commission on Tuesday had announced that 21.9% of Indians were poor as per consumption expenditure survey of 2011-12. It meant a fall of around 15 percentage points in poverty numbers since 2004-05.

The new poverty data has created a controversy with economists and political parties claiming that the number was not realistic as the panel had kept the poverty line abysmally low. The poverty line is based on consumption expenditure of an individual, which was Rs. 27.2 per capita per day in rural India and Rs. 33.3 for urban areas.

The plan panel said that determining the poverty line was just an academic exercise to track the impact of the government policies on the poor over a period of time. For the last data, the panel had tracked poverty numbers between 2004-05 and 2011-12, the period of the UPA's rule.

Many economists also agreed with the panel's view that the poverty line has no implication for government policies. Their concern is that the low poverty line projects wrong depiction of impact of government policies as it does not take into account the "realistic" impact of inflation on a person's expenditure.

CPIM also slammed the panel for poverty estimates saying it was mocking life and death struggles of people, amid continuous rise in prices and massive slashing of subsidies for the poor.

"The urban poverty level definition would not be sufficient to buy even one kg of decent variety of rice in the open market today," CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury said, while describing the poverty line as "absurd" and "inhuman".


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