After facing a barrage of criticism on the issue of poverty line during the last few months, the Planning Commission has decided to appoint a technical committee to look into the whole issue afresh.
Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia said here on Saturday that the committee of experts would be appointed in a couple of weeks. The terms of reference were being worked out and the commission would notify it once the exercise was completed.
Task for experts
Speaking to mediapersons on the sidelines of the launch of the Prime Minister's Rural Development Fellowship programme here, Mr. Ahluwalia said he never meant to arbitrarily bring down the figures of the poor in the country. The Planning Commission would never arrive at a decision on the status of poverty on its own. The estimates would be done by expert panels engaged by it, he explained.
The Suresh Tendulkar Committee had put the people below poverty line (BPL) at slightly lesser than 30 per cent (360 million) in 2009-10, down from 37.2 per cent in 2004-05. The strategy of inclusive growth during the United Progressive Alliance rule had brought down poverty by 1.5 percentage points every year after 2004-05, while it had come down only by 0.74 percentage points during 1993-94 and 2004-05, Mr. Ahluwalia stated.
On the much debated figures of Rs. 32 per capita income per day in urban areas and Rs. 26 per capita income per day in rural areas to decide the status of poverty, the Plan panel deputy chief said the numbers were arrived at by social activists and not by the Planning Commission.
“What we told the Supreme Court was that Rs. 4,800 income per family per month in urban areas and Rs. 3,900 in rural areas is the line of poverty,” he said.
The 20 per cent of people above the poverty line were also poor but they were slightly better off than those below the line. But for the drought conditions in 2009, the poverty would have come down further. The 2011-12 National Sample Survey Organisation study results to be released in early 2013 would definitely bring down poverty further, he said.
However, Mr. Ahluwalia said the poverty line was not linked to the implementation of programmes such as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, Right to Education Act and Food Security Act (FSA). “It is the Planning Commission which recommended coverage of 46 per cent population under the FSA,” he reminded. It was not true that decline in BPL people would take away benefits from them.
Union Minister for Rural Development Jairam Ramesh said they were delinking the total sanitation scheme and the National Rural Livelihoods Mission from the poverty line. He termed the debate on poverty line completely ill-informed and hysterically trivialised.
Mr. Ramesh on Saturday took a dig at MPs who criticised the methodology adopted by the Tendulkar Committee for redefining the term 'poor', saying members raising the issue were probably only aware of Sachin Tendulkar, not Suresh Tendulkar.
“Those Members of Parliament may probably have thought it is Sachin Tendulkar. They did not know it was Suresh Tendulkar,” Mr. Ramesh told reporters, when asked about several MPs criticising the methodology adopted by the Tendulkar Committee set up in the year 2005 by the Planning Commission to suggest criteria for determining poverty line and poverty estimation.
Coming to the rescue of the Planning Commission Deputy Chairman, who was the target of attack both inside and outside Parliament after the panel put out the poverty numbers, Mr. Ramesh claimed the rate of poverty reduction after 2004 has been double the rate of poverty reduction in previous 10 years.