New Delhi: Clearing the air on the controversy over the Rs 32 per day poverty line cut-offs, Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia and Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh said that poverty line as defined by the Plan panel has no bearing on the selection of beneficiaries of government’s welfare schemes.
Addressing a joint press conference with Ramesh, Ahluwalia said, “Poverty line is not a new concept. It has historically been there since 1979. After the UPA government came to power, we took note of the fact that the poverty line estimate was understated.”
The Plan panel chief said that the Suresh Tendulkar Committee Report on the issue recommended that rural poverty line be adjusted upwards. On the issue of the affidavit in the apex court, he said that the report was based on 2003-04 figures; and when the court asked for updated figures, the figures were revised.
“Poverty line as presented to the Supreme Court does not
represent Planning Commission`s views but of a (Tendulkar) committee,” he said.
Ramesh on his part said, “We are now clearly, categorically stating that there is no link between state-wise poverty estimates as generated by the Planning Commission methodology in use and beneficiaries of government programmes.”
Ahluwalia added: “We are not applying Tendulkar Committee`s poverty line for
giving benefits to BPL beneficiaries.”
On the issue of the Rs 32 per day poverty line, he said, “This is a low level; it is not a view of the Planning Commission that poverty level is a benchmark for the Aam Admi… Rs 4,824 per month is a pretty distress level.”
Clarifying further Ahluwalia said, “The Planning Commission is not taking the view that benefits should be restricted to only those below BPL. It would be done by a socio-economic Caste Census that is currently underway.”
Stressing the point, Ramesh said, “Only 9% of expenditure under the Rural Development Ministry depends on the identification of BPL."
The duo held the press conference after an hour-long meeting held at Planning Commission office earlier in the day.
The meeting came in the wake of the Plan panel’s controversial affidavit in the Supreme Court that defined poverty line cut-offs.
Ahluwalia had yesterday met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to clear the Planning Commission’s stance on the issue.
The panel’s affidavit in the apex court had put poverty line for urban and rural areas, provisionally, 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.
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 of five 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.
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`s report.