Is a daily expenditure of Rs. 31 enough to sustain a family of five in a city like Delhi and Mumbai? Country's top-most planning body, Planning Commission, says yes.
In its affidavit filed in the Supreme Court, the panel quoting the Tendulkar Committee's recommendations said the urban poverty line is fixed at an expenditure of Rs. 4,284 per month while it is Rs. 3,905 a month in rural areas.
It means that the money is enough for a family of five to incur expenses on health, food and education. A family spending more would fall in the above poverty line (APL) category.
Jean Dreze, member of the Sonia Gandhi headed National Advisory Council, while questioning the adequacy of Tendulkar committee report said in the committee's poverty-line basket, the allowance for health expenditure is less than one rupee a day — barely enough to buy an aspirin.
The panel had filed the affidavit after the Supreme Court asked the commission to revise norms of per capita amount looking to the price index of May 2011 in the Right to Food case. The poverty line is based on expenditure as on June 2011.
Another NAC member Aruna Roy said the affidavit was reflective of the government's lack of empathy for the poor.
“It is obvious that this extremely low estimated expenditure is a threshold aimed only at artificially reducing the number of persons “below poverty line” so as to reduce government expenditure on the poor,” she said in a signed statement.
The SC had in July perused the Planning Commission's affidavit and expressed its reservations at the fact that the poverty line at the national level fixed by the body, that is Rs. 579 per capita per month consumption expenditure for the urban areas and Rs. 447 per capita per month for the rural areas, are fixed at 2004-05 prices.
A bench headed by justice Dalveer Bhandari did not appreciate the affidavit as the court had on May 14 specifically directed the Commission to revise the norms of per capita keeping the price index of May 2011 in mind.
The direction was given after SC learnt the Tendulkar Committee had fixed daily earning of Rs. 20 in urban and R1s 5 in rural to define a BPL family.
The committee had determined the poverty line at the 2004-05 prices.
The final poverty lines would be available after the completion of 2011-12 survey by the NSSO. According to the Commission, the poverty line would vary from state to state because of price differentials.