The number of poor in India would increase by 35 million by March 2011, a panel of Union ministers on National Food Security law has been told.
The planning commission in a presentation to an Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) last week has said that Suresh Tendulkar Committee had projected the number of poor in 2005 to be 370 million. The panel has accepted this number as India’s new poverty figure for the proposed law.
Applying the committee’s methodology to Registrar General of India’s estimated population, the plan panel has said the number of poor would be 405 million in March 2011.
Based on the poverty estimate, the panel has said the government will require 34 million tonnes of food grains annually costing the government Rs 54,000 crore in food subsidy. It would mean additional Rs 6,000 crore in subsidy as compared to the poverty figure for 2005.
In fact, it would mean no increase in the Central goevrnment’s food subsidy bill, which for the year 2010-11 has been pegged at Rs 55,000 crore.
The subsidy amount has been calculated based on an assumption that a poor person will either get six kg or every below poverty line (BPL) family will get 35 kg of food grains per month. The EGoM headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukerjee has agreed to this.
These are some of the changes EGoM has agreed after Congress President Sonia Gandhi asked the government to re-consider the approved draft law.
The plan panel has also proposed that the states should be given an option to either continue with Public Distribution System linked to Unique Identification Number or direct subsidy through smart cards.
Cheap foodgrains for all may be desirable but not possible, Parliament was told on Monday by agriculture minister Sharad Pawar. Pawar said the government would go by the Plan panel’s updated estimates to ascertain the number of poor eligible for subsidised grains.