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Rs 32-a-day definition of poverty not our view: Plan panel

Last updated on: October 3, 2011 16:23 IST

Rs 32-a-day definition of poverty not our view: Plan panel

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Under attack over the Rs 32 per capita per day (in urban India and Rs 26 per day per person in rural areas) cut off for poverty line, the Planning Commission on Monday distanced itself from the controversial definition presented to the Supreme Court saying it did not represent its views.

Addressing the media, Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia also said that these figures were not used for extending benefits to the deprived sections of the population.

"People allege that the Planning Commission is trying to understate poverty which is simply not true...," he said while addressing a joint press conference with Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh.

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Image: Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia.
Photographs: Reuters
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Rs 32-a-day definition of poverty not our view: Plan panel

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The Planning Commission has come under flak following the affidavit submitted in the Supreme Court, which said that persons consuming items worth more than Rs 32 per day in urban areas (Rs 26 in rural areas) are not poor.

As per the affidavit, a family of five spending less than Rs 4,824 per month (at June 2011 prices) in urban areas will fall in the BPL (Below Poverty Line) category. The expenditure limit for a family in rural areas has been fixed at Rs 3,905 per month.

Ahluwalia had met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday to clarify Planning Commission's view on the controversy.

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Image: Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh.
Photographs: Reuters
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Rs 32-a-day definition of poverty not our view: Plan panel

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"The affidavit before the court is a factual affidavit in answer to questions asked by the court. Our legal representative will be there in the court to (explain our position), we will abide by what ever the court order," he said.

By focusing on the daily figures of (Rs 32 and Rs 26) there was an attempt to embarrass the Planning Commission, he said, adding that this was not the criteria for giving benefits.

Planning Commission and Ministry for Rural Development will form an expert committee which will look into the findings of socio-econmic and caste census, which is currently on and is expected to be completed by January 2012, Ramesh said.

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Photographs: Reuters
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Rs 32-a-day definition of poverty not our view: Plan panel

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Montek Singh also said at the joint press that the Planning Commission was not going by a set poverty line for allocation of benefits and subsidised food and said that the panel supported an approach of giving benefits based on various economic factors.

"The Planning Commission has never taken the view that benefits should be restricted to those below this poverty line," Ahluwalia said

Earlier, Montek Singh had met with Jairam Ramesh to resolve the issue. Ramesh had expressed disagreement over the Commission's formula for arriving at the poverty line of Rs 32 a day and Rs 26 a day in urban and rural areas, respectively.

"Jairam and I had a very good meeting. I think we have resolved a number of important issues; actually, all the important issues. I think we are in complete agreement," Ahluwalia told reporters after the meeting.

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Photographs: Reuters
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"There is broad consensus on the linkage between poverty line and rural development," Ramesh said after the meeting, which among others was attended by Plan panel members Abhijit Sen, Mihir Shah, Syeda Hameed and Narendra Jadhav.

As per the affidavit, a family of five spending less than Rs 4,824 per month (at June 2011 prices) in urban areas will fall in the BPL (Below Poverty Line) category. The expenditure limit for a family in rural areas has been fixed at Rs 3,905 per month.

The number of poor entitled to BPL benefits, as per the affidavit, has been estimated at 40.74 crore (407.4 million), as against 37.2 crore (372 million) estimated at the time of accepting the Tendulkar Committee report. Click NEXT to read on . . .


Photographs: Reuters
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Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi is believed to have intervened in the matter and has reportedly asked the Plan panel to do a rethink on its definition of poverty.

Besides, National Advisory Council members Aruna Roy and Harsh Mander had challenged the Rs 32 per person poverty definition of the Commission.

Other members of the NAC, which is headed by Congress President Sonia Gandhi, too had opposed the Commission's definition.

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Photographs: Reuters
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Ridiculing the Commission's poverty line, NAC member N C Saxena had said, "On Rs 32 a day, you know only dogs and animals can live. People who are spending below Rs 32 a day -- they are poorest of the poor. You can call them destitute, you can call them people living in sub-human level."

Concerned over the public outcry, Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni had said, "The Planning Commission had given an affidavit. When we asked for information from the panel regarding it, we were told that it is an initial document and not the final document."

These figures, she had said, "could undergo a change, who knows some other statistics may come up, which is acceptable to the Planning Commission. There is concern among people. There is a certain disquiet in the civil society and other sections. They believe the statistics are perhaps somewhat removed from reality."


Photographs: Reuters
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