Montek meets PM on poverty line, to make statement on Monday
New Delhi: Amid a raging controversy over the Rs 32 per capita per day poverty line definition, Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday and will clarify the panel's stand on the issue on Monday.
The Planning Commission deputy chief, who returned from a 10-day foreign visit on Saturday, met the Prime Minister today for the first time since the controversy erupted after an affidavit filed by the Plan panel in the Supreme Court.
Ahluwalia is believed to have discussed the fallout of the controversy relating to the affidavit, which said that persons consuming items worth more than Rs 32 per day in urban areas (Rs 26 in rural areas) are not poor, with the Prime Minister.
As per the affidavit, a family of five spending less than Rs 4,824 (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.
The number of poor entitled to BPL benefits, as per the affidavit, has been estimated at 40.74 crore, as against 37.2 crore estimated at the time of accepting the Tendulkar Committee report.
Officials in the Planning Commission have said that providing benefits to more persons would defeat the purpose of the anti-poverty programme.
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.
Ahluwalia is also scheduled to meet Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh on Monday to discuss the issue.
Concerned over the public outcry, Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni had said on Saturday, "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."
She had further said, "These figures 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 some sections. They believe the statistics are perhaps somewhat removed from reality."
Among others, National Advisory Council (NAC) member Aruna Roy and Harsh Mander 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 Commission's definition.
Ridiculing the Commission's poverty line, NAC member N C Saxena said, "On Rs 32 a day, you know only dogs and animals can live."
He further said, "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."