The Indian government could reassess the norms under which it measures the poverty level of the country's population, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh informed parliament on Thursday.
"There can be many measures of poverty. This (the current method) has been sanctified by the Planning Commission. Further refinements are possible," he said during question hour in the Rajya Sabha.
The prime minister's intervention came after heated objections from Murali Manohar Joshi of the Bharatiya Janata Party on a reply from Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs V Narayanasamy as to what defined people living below the poverty line.
"There are several ways poverty can be measured. There is a World Bank study on this but we have not accepted that methodology. The Planning Commission has worked out its own methodology," Manmohan Singh said.
"Every five years, the NSSO (National Sample Survey Organisation) calculates the poverty line in terms of (minimum) calories (an individual requires per day). This is currently 2,400 (calories) in rural areas and 2,100 in urban areas," the prime minister added.
Joshi, however, was not satisfied and said: "You are taking into account only calories. What about clothes, the needs of the family and medicines?"
Before Manmohan Singh could reply, Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari ruled that question hour was over.
Earlier, Joshi objected to Narayanasamy's definition of poverty being assessed on the basis of household consumption expenditure.
"The Planning Commission says one thing, the health ministry says something else," he maintained, adding: "You have the right to reply, not to confuse the house."