Montek meets Manmohan, to file new poverty affidavit

The Planning Commission is working on a new affidavit to explain the definition of poverty, but the defining numbers are unlikely to change, the panel’s deputy chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia is understood to have told the Prime Minister. Chetan Chauhan reports. Poverty debate

delhi Updated: Oct 03, 2011 01:19 IST
Chetan Chauhan
Chetan Chauhan
Hindustan Times

A poverty line cap -- Rs 32 in urban areas and Rs 26 in rural areas -- is unlikely to be revised but the Planning Commission would submit a clarification affidavit in the Supreme Court explaining need for expenditure based cap.

The plan panel deputy chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia, who returned from 10-day foreign visit on Saturday, met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and admitted that the affidavit saying that per capita per day expenditure of Rs 32/Rs 26 was enough to sustain oneself had created confusion.

Ahluwalia is said to have told PM that he will discuss the issue with plan members on Monday and then take a decision on filing another affidavit to clear the wind regarding the controversy would be taken.

"I brief Prime Minister on my China visit and also on the media reports on poverty," Ahluwalia told HT. Ahluwalia is said to have told the PM that poverty line and identification of the poor are not linked and any change in poverty line could have huge financial implications.

The Central government disburses funds worth Rs one lakh crore to the state governments to provide subsidised food grains to the poor and money for building homes under Indira Awas Yojana.

In the years to come, the government plans to give subsidy directly to the poor through Unique Identification Number (UID) linked bank accounts and any upward revision in the poverty line would mean higher allocation, defeating the government's attempt of fiscal consolidation.

Two plan panel members --- Abhijit Sen and Mihir Shah --- and rural development minister Jairam Ramesh had expressed reservation on the poverty line. "A new affidavit explaining the position of the entire panel rather than a few members should be filed," a member, requesting anonymity, said.

Ramesh, who had suggested an alternative methodology to define poor, met Ahluwalia on Sunday night to discuss more inclusive poverty line definition. He had suggested an exclusion criterion having no single below poverty line list with all the non-excluded households to be part of one main list with subsidiary lists for specific programmes.

Ahluwalia was not adverse to his idea and said it needs to be discussed with other members of the plan panel before taking a final decision. But, Ramesh proposal will not change definition of poverty line as it talks about the identification process and disbursing benefits to the poor.

Sen had told HT last week that poverty line of Rs 32 and Rs 26 figure based on Tendulkar committee methodology will be revised once the panel receives the data of National Sample Survey on consumer expenditure for 2011-12. Ruling out revision of the methodology, he said if the state governments want they can provide benefits to as many poor as they want and there is no central government cap on that.

Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi is believed to have asked the Plan panel to do a rethink on its definition of poverty even as National Advisory Council members Aruna Roy and Harsh Mander asked Ahluwalia and other plan members to try and live on Rs 32 per day in a city like Delhi. "Only animals can survive on this money," another NAC member N C Saxena said.

First Published: Oct 02, 2011 19:01 IST