Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia was in the eye of a storm in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday over the fresh poverty estimates pegging poverty line at Rs. 28.65 per capita daily consumption in cities.
“Ahluwalia is away from ground realities. He needs to be removed as every time he speaks, things go wrong. He has never spoken a good thing. No one is agreeing with the latest data,” NDA convenor and JD-U chief Sharad Yadav said in an impromptu discussion.
“Shoot the poor...give them poison...if you want to end poverty like this,” he said.
Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj targeted the government over this issue noting that it was wrong to blame the Plan panel as the Prime Minister himself headed the body.
Asserting that responsibility lay with the government and not the Planning Commission, she appealed to UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, who was present in the House, to reject the latest estimates.
Regretting that poverty was not coming down, she alleged that efforts were on to wipe out the poor and not poverty.
SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav said people sitting in air-conditioned rooms were blurting out figures when the reality was that 65 per cent of the population was below poverty line without proper electricity and potable water.
Accusing the plan panel of betraying the country, he said one cannot have even proper snacks for Rs 32 and the Planning Commission wanted people to live in that amount.
V Arun Kumar (Cong) alleged that opposition members were trying to mislead Parliament as the Plan panel has told the Supreme Court that the figures were per capita and not for the whole family. The per family figures are Rs 4,824 for the urban areas and Rs 3,905 for rural areas a month.
Mr. T.R. Baalu (DMK) regretted that the criteria of deciding poverty line has not been fixed so far which was creating problems for state governments in implementing welfare schemes.
“Let the Planning Commission show its inputs to a Parliamentary Committee so that a proper criteria for the BPL could be fixed”, he said.
Mr. Kalyan Banerjee (TMC) said that no prudent person could come to the conclusion on the poverty estimates and the whole issue should be reconsidered by the Planning Commission.
He wanted chief ministers of all states should be consulted while deciding price indices.
Mr. Raghuvansh Prasad Singh (RJD) justified members’ anger over the issue while Anant Geete (Shiv Sena) said it was a mockery of the poor. He said the House should pass a resolution expressing disagreement over the Plan panel data.
Mr. M. Thambidurai (AIADMK) said it was time the Planning Commission realised the true gravity of poverty, while Prabodh Panda (CPI) said the proposal was condemnable and the Prime Minister should make a statement in the House.
Mr. B. Mahtab (BJD) alleged that the Planning Commission was confusing the whole country as a good lawyer who confuses the court when his case is weak.
Mr. Baliram (BSP) took a dig at the Commission and said with the latest figures India can now show to the world that there are no poor in the country.
Mr. Basudeb Acharia (CPI(M)) alleged that the Plan panel used “fraudulent methods” to arrive at the latest figures and said with 8 per cent inflation, none can survive at Rs 22 a day.