Sanjay Dohale, a 27-year-old farm labourer from the Dolhara village of Mokhada Taluka, earns a measly sum of Rs50 per day. He’s a certified ‘poor’, but there many others who earn a few rupees more, but still don’t ‘qualify’ to be called one.
According to the Planning Commission’s latest guidelines, only those who earn less than Rs15 per day in rural areas and Rs20 in urban areas can be termed as below the poverty line.
Protesting against the new guidelines, around 300 people from across the state gathered at Azad Maidan on Tuesday. Calling the guidelines a ‘mockery of poverty’, activists, agricultural workers and labourers gathered and expressed displeasure at the new guidelines, which they felt were a conspiracy to limit the number of poor people in the country.
Activist Ulka Mahajan of the Anna Adhikar Abhiyan said, “These guidelines are a mockery of the poor. This is being done not to reduce poverty, but to reduce the number of people who are officially termed ‘poor’. How can we call ourselves an emerging superpower if we start denying the existence of poor people?”
Another activist Brian Lobo said, “By these figures, do they mean to say that the poor go around nude, do not use any sort of public transport and use all the money they earn on only food? There is no other way that people below the poverty line can survive on such a meagre income.”
Activists said that they believed such a move would ensure that the government could reduce the spending on welfare schemes for the poor. Mohammed Anis, of the Movement for Peace & Justice said, “One of the United Nations millennium development goals was to eradicate extreme poverty by 2015. Since we are far away from that, the government is now keen on eradicating the poor themselves.”
The Planning Commission, in a submission to the Supreme Court, has recently fixed a cut-off of Rs675 and Rs870 as the monthly per head expenditure for a family of five in rural and urban areas respectively, for them to qualify as below the poverty line.