04 October 2011

Redefining Indian Poverty

How will you fare? Show me how to run a day with 26? Darvinder Singh from Jammu and Kashmir asks the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia in an open letter.

Montek Singh Ahluwalia

Faced with severe criticism, Montek Singh Ahluwalia met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh to clear the controversies surrounding the recent poverty line cap proposed by the Planning Commission. It is expected that the planning commission might submit a clarification affidavit in the apex court explaining need for expenditure based cap. He will also discuss the issue with planning panel members in the coming days.

In a country that is home to the largest number of hungry people, where education is still a dream for many, and where maternal and infant mortality are ever increasingly, the Planning Commission had recently come up with a ridiculous affidavit that said anyone spending more than 36 in urban or 26 in rural India cannot be considered poor.

India Poor

The Planning Commissions surprising finding in the form of an affidavit could not have come at a worse time when the country's poor masses are struggling
hard to survive the increasing food inflation. In an open letter to Montek Singh Ahluwalia, The Right to Food Campaign demanded the Commission to explain how the controversial per capita poverty line expenditure of 25 per day in rural and 32 per day in urban area could be normatively 'adequate', reports The Hindu. The campaign also questioned Commission's argument that the poverty line had no relationship to food subsidy citing that fund allocations for many government programs such Public Distribution System and pensions are based on poverty ratios. The commission has allegedly avoided the key issue of 'why should there be a poverty line that determines the Below Poverty Line "caps" and to re-consider the poverty line'.

Poverty in India

Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi has reportedly express his discontent with the numbers provided by the commission. Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni said, "We understand that these figures could undergo a change. This affidavit is not the final affidavit."

Social activist and member of the National Advisory Council (NAC), Aruna Roy demanded the planning commissioner's resignation and said, "Well, if you are always going to say that growth is primary and the poor should disappear from sight and if they are there, they should take the crumbs, then one day it will rebound like the India shining campaign . It's a warning, it is not a statement," said social activist Aruna Ro.

However, at last the planning commission seems to have realized how ridiculous and unrealistic the 32 cap was. After his meeting with the Rural Development Minister, Ahluwalia said, "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." "There is broad consensus on the linkage between poverty line and rural development," Jairam Ramesh said after the meeting. Therefore, with a greater understanding of the Indian poor, the commission will hopefully come up with a better definition of the poverty in the country.