The Tendulkar Committee's recommendations on poverty have run out of takers, at least in the political circles. Under pressure from all sides over its estimate of people living below the poverty line, the Planning Commission on Thursday effectively abandoned the Tendulkar panel's estimation method. A committee would be constituted to revisit the methodology to estimate poverty.
The committee, to be constituted in a couple of months, would take a comprehensive view on the entire method of estimating poverty, including the Socio-Economic Caste Census 2011.
"We believe the perception on poverty has moved away from the process suggested by Tendulkar, and ground realities have changed in the last four-five years," minister of state for planning, Ashwini Kumar, said at a press conference. Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia was absent at the meeting.
Kumar said there was a need to revisit the method of estimating poverty, and the new method would be consistent with the changed perceptions.
The idea of revisiting the method was to ensure no real beneficiary of social sector schemes was left out, he added. Kumar said no methodology was cast in stone and the method of estimating poverty had to keep changing.
Sources privy to the development said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was keen a new committee be constituted to study the method. On entitlements, Kumar said the benefits of the Food Security Act would still be linked to the caste census, while the determination of beneficiaries of other schemes could be linked to the new methodology, depending on the new committee's report.
"We'll take a call on whether or not to link benefits of other schemes with the new line after the report is released," he said.
The Planning Commission had earlier said all social sector programmes would be de-linked from the poverty estimates. Suresh Tendulkar died last year. He held several important positions, including chairmanship of the Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council. He was renowned for his work on poverty estimates.
Himanshu, an economist at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, said poverty lines were not decided under public pressure.
Even if the poverty line was Rs 100 a day, people would have protested so long as it decided benefits, he said.
Biraj Patnaik of the Right to Food Campaign said Ashwini Kumar had made it clear the poverty line would be linked to various schemes, except food security. He said the government abandoned the Tendulkar method mainly to save Ahluwalia, under attack from the Opposition.
Ironically, experts had earlier lauded the committee headed by Tendulkar for coming out with a good methodology. Unlike the old method of estimating poverty by calorie consumption, the Tendulkar committee had suggested a broader definition, one that included spending on food, education, health and clothing.
Using the Tendulkar methodology, the number of people living below the poverty line had increased. According to its calculations, these people rose from 28.3 per cent of the population in rural areas in 2004-05 to 41.8 per cent.
The number of people below the poverty line in urban areas remained unchanged at 25.7 per cent. At the national level, the number of people below the poverty line rose from 27.5 per cent to 37.2 per cent in 2004-05, based on the new methodology.