Montek meets PM amid controversy over poverty data

Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia met PM amid controversy over the panel`s affidavit in SC defining poverty line cut-offs.

New Delhi: Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Sunday amid controversy over the panel`s affidavit in the Supreme Court defining poverty line cut-offs which have triggered strong opposition from food rights activists.

Ahluwalia is expected to clear the stance of planning commission on the issue at a press conference Monday.

Sources said Ahluwalia, who was on a visit abroad, met the prime minister for the first time since the controversy erupted after an affidavit filed by the panel in Supreme Court last month.

The affidavit said that poverty line for urban and rural areas could be provisionally placed at Rs.965 per capita per month (about Rs.32 per day) for urban areas and Rs.781 per capita per month (about Rs.26 per day) for rural areas.

Apart from food rights activists, opposition parties had also slammed the government over the affidavit.
The number of poor entitled to below poverty line (BPL) benefits, as per the affidavit, has been estimated at 40.74 crore.

Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi is also learnt to have expressed his concern over the poverty line cut offs.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni admitted Saturday that there was concern among people on the issue.

She said the figures could undergo a change. "There is a certain disquiet in the civil society and some sections. They believe the statistics are perhaps somewhat removed from reality," she said.

Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh had sent a missive to the panel on the issue.
National Advisory Council members Aruna Roy and N.C. Saxena also expressed reservations over the poverty line cut offs.

Saxena said that only dogs and animals can live at Rs.32 a day and said that people spending that kind of amount were poorest of the poor.

Following the uproar, Ahluwalia said that the affidavit was "factually correct" and it was not a new policy decision but simply a factual explanation given to the apex court on how poverty lines were calculated based on Suresh Tendulkar report.


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