Affluence, like beauty, lies in the eyes of the beholder. Shibu Soren, he of a state that churns out billionaire chief ministers in a matter of weeks, couldn’t agree more. Not to be called poor in Jharkhand entails the Herculean effort of earning less than Rs 10,000 a month. That works out to Rs 350 a day, seven times higher than the World Bank poverty line of a dollar a day. Now, our politicians have been making efforts to eradicate indigence by pulling the poverty line ever lower. Mr Soren, as is his wont, strays from the beaten track to find riches in the poverty story.
Not content with subsidised petrol for his motorcycle and cheap fertiliser for his 5-acre farm, the Soren Cabinet wants most Jharkhandis to get free rations as well — the Rs 10,000 a month poverty line is way above the state’s
Rs 16,294 income per capita in 2008-09. There is a river of gold flowing from New Delhi if the CM manages to pull his state below the poverty line. Mr Soren wants to change its course. The Communists invented the politics of poverty, the Yadavs (Mulayam and Lalu) took the concept forward, but the Soren variety is in a different league altogether. Why blame him when even crimes committed below the poverty line are treated differently from those above it?
But here’s a poser to Mr Soren. Does he appreciate the gold rush he’d be spawning? Offices and factories in Mumbai and Delhi will hollow out as people rush for cover under the Jharkhandi poverty line. Maybe he’s figured this one out. Any CM of Jharkhand is besieged by capitalists waiting to cart out its mineral wealth. A sky-high poverty line could ensure that the stuff coming out of the mines is processed in factories and offices in the state.