The much-criticised new poverty cutoff — proposed recently by the Planning Commission, it sets the bar for urban poverty at Rs 32 spent per person per day — would exclude many beggars in Mumbai, a survey has found.
The survey, conducted over the past six months by University of Mumbai’s Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Centre for Social Justice in hutments across the city, found that only nine of 1,043 households surveyed fell below the urban poverty line as determined by the Tendulkar Committee.
“The nine households that had a monthly income less than Rs 965 per person were socially dysfunctional homes where the family member was a drug addict or in jail and begged part-time for a living. The full-time beggars earned more than Rs 965 a month,” said Neeraj Hatekar, an economics professor who headed the study.
The Tendulkar Committee has fixed on a per capita monthly expenditure of Rs 965 as the cutoff for urban poverty. In the hutments surveyed, most households had five members and a monthly income of Rs 6,000 (Rs 1,200 per person), with the earning members working as plumbers, domestic help etc. Reading between the Rs 32 poverty line
“While Rs 965 is spent on food and meagre amounts on health and education, each person has barely Rs 230 to cater to the rest of their needs such as home repairs and illnesses, which is not enough,” said Hatekar, adding that the poverty line should only be used to distinguish the socially dysfunctional from the poor. “If these people are denied welfare benefits because they are not counted as poor, they will never be able to get out of the slums.”
Added DK Joshi, chief economic advisor with credit ratings organisation Crisil: “The government needs some cutoff to determine poverty. It is an important study and needs to be analysed at a national level now to understand its implications.”