New Delhi: Accusing Prime Minister Manmohan
Singh of having little knowledge of the level of poverty in
the country, BJP on Saturday demanded an immediate meeting of all
chief ministers and leaders of various political parties to
discuss the issue of revised BPL benchmark.
"The issue of poverty is too important to be left to the
Planning Commission or Prime Minister, as neither the Prime
Minister nor the Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission have
any idea of real poverty. They rarely go to villages and
interact with the poor," BJP leader Yashwant Sinha said.
He said their lack of knowledge of the prevailing poverty
in the country had been exposed by the revised benchmark for
BPL families which excludes those earning Rs 32 in urban and
Rs 26 in rural areas from the category.
"Both these economists stand fully exposed through the
laughable affidavit (setting new BPL benchmark) filed in the
Supreme Court by the Planning Commission, with the approval of
Prime Minister," he said.
"The BJP totally rejects the affidavits filed by the
Planning Commission with regard to defining BPL and calls
upon the government to immediately convene a meeting of state
Chief Ministers and political party representatives and
discuss the issue in detail," he said.
Sinha said the meeting should discuss in detail the
definition of below poverty line and identifying its
beneficiaries, besides various reports on the BPL issue.
"This is leading to such unrest in the rural areas, which
you can`t even imagine sitting here. There is a furore in the
rural areas on the issue of below poverty line," Sinha said.
He also alleged that a large chunk of the poor which are
on the margins are not included in the below poverty line
category, thus leading to this unrest.
The BJP leader also lamented, "the saddest part is that
even after 64 years of Independence we have not arrived at a
satisfactory definition of poverty."
The former Finance Minister also charged the Planning
Commission with putting a cap on the BPL beneficiaries, due to
which the real poor were not getting the benefits of BPL
schemes evolved by the Central and State Governments.
"In order to keep its expenditure down and the Plan
allocations within limits, the Planning Commission puts a cap
on this. Every district and state has a quota for the poor.
Even if you identify the real poor, they still don`t get BPL
benefits as they don`t come under this quota," he said.
"That cap is entirely untenable, because you either have
poverty line or you don`t have one," he said.
Sinha said the Government has again mocked at poor through
the affidavit it filed in Supreme Court on September 20, 2011,
where Planning Commission states that anyone who spends more
than Rs 32 a day in urban areas or Rs 26 a day in rural areas
will not be considered as poor and will not get BPL benefits.
This affidavit, he said, was filed in response to May 14
Supreme Court order advising the Commission to update its BPL
norms to reflect prices as in May 2011, as the Commission had
quoted a figure of Rs 20 and Rs 15 respectively for urban and
Quoting the N C Saxena Committee of Ministry of Rural
Development, the former Finance Minister said, "percentage of
rural population that is poor is far greater than present
cut-off line of 28.3 percent. The Committee had recommended
that percentage of people entitled to BPL status be
drastically revised upwards to at least 50 per cent."
Sinha added that the World Bank poverty estimates of 41.6
per cent are based on the world poverty line of US Dollar 1.25
per capita per day at 2005 prices.
He said according to Planning Commission a person can live
comfortably with a family of four in a big city in about Rs
3,860 per month, which would include expenditure on not only
food but also on house rent, conveyance, education and health,
clothing, footwear and other personal items.