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Food law to be new poverty benchmark

A fresh set of multi-dimensional indicators - not the official poverty line - will be used to identify 46% of all Indians who will make up a 'priority' class for highly subsidised food entitlements, food minister KV Thomas has said. Zia Haq reports. The number game

delhi Updated: Oct 08, 2011 02:13 IST
Zia Haq
Zia Haq
Hindustan Times

A fresh set of multi-dimensional indicators - not the official poverty line - will be used to identify 46% of all Indians who will make up a 'priority' class for highly subsidised food entitlements, food minister KV Thomas has said.


The proposed priority group will comprise 14% more people than provided for by current estimates of those below the poverty line.

The number game

This new measure of those deserving government handouts will be laid out in the food law as it finally emerges and likely serve as the yardstick for other centrally sponsored welfare programmes.

"It will be a much wider spectrum to include both urban and rural dwellers," Thomas said, seeking to assuage recent criticism that a new, official poverty benchmark had been set low to restrict the number of households receiving government aid.

Historically, people under the poverty line have been the main recipients of subsidized foodgrains, pulses and cooking fuel. However, the Planning Commission's new poverty benchmark - Rs 32 and Rs 26 for urban and rural dwellers respectively - was squarely criticised recently for being so low that few Indians would get by on so little.

Thomas said the household indicators would be based on a socio-economic census, currently under way and likely to be concluded in January next year.

The survey is being undertaken by the Registrar General's office, the national enumerator, and is being overseen by rural development minister Jairam Ramesh.

Thomas said the parameters to decide which low-income households would qualify as priority families would be decided by consulting all stakeholders, particularly the states, civil society and the Planning Commission.

The final estimates will be arrived at by an expert committee, which will ensure that these are consistent with provisions of the food law.

Aside from the priority category, the food law will also cater to a "general category" which will comprise 28% of all Indians. This way, 75% of the population will receive some form of subsidised food entitlements or the other, Thomas said.

First Published: Oct 08, 2011 00:48 IST