Poverty estimate: Plan panel split on affidavit in SC | delhi | Hindustan Times
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Poverty estimate: Plan panel split on affidavit in SC

Split in Planning Commission is wide open with members saying the affidavit filed in the Supreme Court related to determining number of poor in India was never discussed in the panel’s internal meeting. Chetan Chauhan reports.

delhi Updated: Sep 23, 2011 00:43 IST
Chetan Chauhan

Split in Planning Commission is wide open with members saying the affidavit filed in the Supreme Court related to determining number of poor in India was never discussed in the panel’s internal meeting.

It had now surfaced that the affidavit was circulated among the members for their comments. But, the adverse view of members such as Abhijit Sen and Mihir Shah were not incorporated in the final affidavit, causing the furore.

“We raised concern that the affidavit fails to address the basic question raised by the Supreme Court,” Sen said and added that the final affidavit did not reflect their concerns.

Sen said the Supreme Court wanted answer on the Planning Commission’s cap on poverty numbers resulting in many poor being left out from the scope of the Central government’s welfare schemes. “The affidavit details the academic exercise which has nothing to do with the Below Poverty Line survey,” he said.

Saumitra Chaudhari, member in-charge of determining poverty figures, said that question was never asked from the plan. “The court wanted to know poverty line looking to the price index of May 2011 and we provided the same for June 2011,” he said, while clarifying that there was no problem with the affidavit.

The panel in its affidavit had said that an individual spending less than Rs 31 in urban areas and less than Rs 25 in rural areas every day on food, health and education are poor. Social activists termed the daily expenditure limit prescribed to fix national poverty line as pathetic as it was impossible for anyone to sustain oneself.

Chaudhari said the contention of the activists was wrong as expenses calculated are for a family of five and not an individual. It meant that a family of five could sustain oneself for Rs 4,824 in urban areas and Rs 3,905 in rural areas as these expenses does not include expenditure on rent.

Sen said the panel’s poverty line based on expenditure has no bearing on identification of the poor in India as spending is not the basis for identification. Poor are identified on basis of exclusion and inclusion formula based on verifiable elements such as how much land a family has, whether they have a vehicle or not, whether they are income tax payee or not. “The affidavit has created an unnecessary confusion and the commission needs to clarify its view,” he said.

Not just the members were consulted, the panel also failed to adhere to the practice of routing the affidavit through Law ministry for due diligence. It was submitted in the court without the Law ministry’s knowledge government sources said.

But the affidavit had evoked strong reaction from state chief ministers such as Prakash Singh Badal or Punjab and Nitish Kumar of Bihar, who want revision of the poverty line saying it should be based on “realistic” criteria to determine the poor.

“The Planning Commission's assessment is a non-transparent and fraudulent method in which poverty lines were manipulated to suit the interests of new liberal policies of the UPA government,” CPI-M Politburo member Brinda Karat said.

How the poverty numbers are determined

Poverty line 2011
An individual spending less than Rs 31 in urban areas and Rs 25 in rural areas on food, health and education every day are poor. Rest are rich.
The figure has been derived by applying Consumer Price Index for industrial workers for urban areas and for agriculture labourers for rural areas of June 2011 to poverty line figure of 2004-05.
The figure of 2004-05 was Rs 20 for urban areas and Rs 15 for rural areas.
Tendulkar Committee appointed by Prime Minister reached the figure by calculating monthly cost on food, entertainment, school education and non-institutional health based on National Sample Survey’s Consumer Expenditure Survey of 2004-05.
For poor, the maximum daily spending on cereals was Rs 12.16 in urban areas and Rs 10.24 in rural areas. Similar expenditure on pulses was 3.31 in urban areas and Rs 3.22 in rural areas. Expenditure on health and education was calculated to be less than Rs two.
It meant a poor person could buy daily food worth 2,100 calories in urban areas and 1,776 calories in rural areas. It was higher that the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s standard of daily requirement of 1,700 calories to lead healthy life.
Before Tendulkar, the poverty line was calculated on based monthly expenditure on food worth 2,400 calories in rural areas and 2,100 calories in urban areas. Tendulkar committee shunned the methodology saying there was downward trend in calorie intake.