Not understating poverty, no cap for food allocation: Montek (Roundup)October 3rd, 2011 - 9:53 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi, Oct 3 (IANS) Facing flak for its Rs.32 per day ceiling set for defining urban poor, the Planning Commission Monday denied it was trying to “understate poverty” and clarified that it was not going by a set poverty line for allocation of subsidised food.
The plan panel also said that its poverty estimates will not be linked to ongoing welfare schemes.
“The allegation is being made that the Planning Commission is trying to understate poverty. This is simply not true,” Planning Commission Deputy Chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia told reporters at a joint press conference with Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh in Yojana Bhawan here.
The plan panel had drawn flak from activists, including from members of the influential Sonia Gandhi-led NAC, for its affidavit in the Supreme Court stating that the poverty line for urban areas could be provisionally placed at about Rs.32 per day.
To ensure “no poor and deprived household counted during the ongoing below poverty line (BPL) census is excluded from government programmes”, the government announced Monday to set up a new expert panel. The BPL survey is likely to be completed by January 2012.
Downplaying the plan panel’s announcement that its poverty estimates will not be linked to ongoing welfare schemes, National Advisory Council member N.C. Saxena said: “It was just a reiteration of what is actually happening.”
“Only five out of around 300 central welfare schemes are linked to the plan panel’s poverty estimates. Montek did not say anything new,” Saxena told IANS.
However, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) did not find the plan panel’s arguments convincing, and said the Planning Commission was “totally confused and has no understanding of poverty or price rise”.
“The government doesn’t know the difference between poverty and deprivation,” senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi told reporters.
Going by the estimates of the Suresh Tendulkar report, the Planning Commission had in the affidavit before the apex court set the yardstick for measuring poverty at just over Rs.4,800 for a family of five living in urban areas and at about Rs.3,700 for a similar family in rural India.
Ahluwalia, however, said these had been misinterpreted and the Planning Commission never wanted to restrict benefits to a smaller percentage of the population.
“The Planning Commission has never taken the view that the benefits should be restricted to those below this poverty line,” Ahluwalia said, adding that it had in fact supported the idea of widening the beneficiaries base for food allocation.
The NAC had last year recommended that the government discontinue the method of calculating the number of beneficiaries for various subsidies and welfare programmes on the basis of below poverty line (BPL) category and instead award benefits to a priority category.
“The Planning Commission has strongly supported the NAC recommendations in all the inter-ministerial meetings that entitlement should go beyond the poverty line level,” said Ahluwalia.
Another NAC member Harsh Mander who is among the fiercest critics of the plan panel’s affidavit, said the clarification was a right step but it needed to be seen how it would translate into action.
“We need to have a benchmark as to what is acceptable (level of poverty),” said Mander.
Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi is also believed to have intervened in the issue.
Ramesh, who met Ahluwalia earlier in the day, said at the joint briefing that the government’s welfare programmes were even now largely based on other criteria and did not follow the BPL yardstick for extending benefits.
“We are in the midst of conducting a socio-economic caste census which will generate, based on deprivational indicators, a rank ordering of households,” said the minister.
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- Sonia to take up poverty issue amid government flip-flop - Oct 10, 2011
- Live on this! BJP sends Rs.32 to PM, Sonia - Sep 27, 2011
- Rural development spending not limited to BPL: Ramesh - Oct 03, 2011
- About 70 percent of India is poor: Top adviser - Mar 25, 2012
- Government reviews food security bill - Feb 29, 2012
- Need new estimates of poverty: PM - Mar 22, 2012
- Bihar asked to set up more shelters for homeless people - Jun 17, 2011
- Will delay in poverty survey affect food security bill? - Apr 10, 2012
- How was BPL percentage calculated, asks Supreme Court - Apr 20, 2011
- How was BPL percentage calculated, asks Supreme Court (Lead) - Apr 20, 2011
- Poverty has increased in India: Top Adviser - Sep 25, 2011
Tags: advisory council member, bharatiya janata party, bjp leader, bpl, deputy chairperson, development minister, expert panel, flak, government doesn, manohar joshi, montek singh ahluwalia, national advisory council, planning commission, poverty estimates, poverty line, ramesh, reiteration, saxena, sonia gandhi, welfare schemes