Red Cross seeks revision of BPL classification



New Delhi: In the backdrop of the controversy over government affidavit on Below Poverty Line cap, world's largest humanitarian organisation IFRC on Thursday suggested revisiting classification of BPL people.

It also argued that the proposed National Food Security Bill will not be sufficient to wipe out hunger in the country.

"The present classification of below and above the poverty line needs to be revisited.

"Instead, the finding of the National Commission on Enterprise in the Unorganised Sector that 836 million people in India spend less than Rs 20 a day on food, should be criterion for a meaningful food-for-all programme," World Disasters Report-2011 by International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies stated.

The report, released here, also suggested that average ration of 35 kg per family also needs to be "revised upwards, coupled with the need to expand the food basket to include coarse cereals and pulses."

The Plan panel in an affidavit in the Supreme Court had said that urban households having five members with daily consumption basket of food and other items of more than Rs 161 will not be entitled to benefits provided BPL families, while in rural areas, households with same number of members spending more than Rs 130 on consumption of food and other articles will not fall in the category.

Accordingly, only those individuals consuming less than Rs 32 per day in urban areas and Rs 26 in rural areas will be treated as poor.

The IFRC argued that National Food Security Bill will not alone be sufficient to wipe out hunger from India and suggested a holistic approach to secure livelihood for poor and sufficient food grains production for achieving the goal.

"Food alone will not be the answer.... Government needs to plan for providing livelihood to poor families and produce more food in sustainable manner," Mihoko Tamamura, World Food Programme director (India), said.

IFRC also advised the government to set up food grain banks at village and sub-district levels.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies suggested more investment in agriculture in India.

"Agriculture is the backbone of the Indian economy. Over the years, India's agricultural production has remained static or not increased in proportion to ever-growing population.

"Rapid urbanisation and increased migration of people from rural to urban areas in search of livelihoods are some of the factors working against development of agriculture in India," the report said.

It also raised concerns over the rising prices of food items across the globe, including India and said, "In January 2011, Indian food prices hit their highest level in more than a year. Millions of Indians spend more than 50 per cent of their household income on food, so any rise in food prices is extremely detrimental to health, welfare and security."

The report also points out wastage of food when 15 per cent of world population is undernourished. "An estimated 30 per cent of all food crops are wasted. Halving the amount of food wasted by 2050 would cut the amount of food required by a quarter of today's production."

While, an estimated nine million malnourished children across the world die before attaining age of five, 60 per cent of undernourished people are women.

IFRC says that 63,611 Indians were killed in various disasters such as drought, earthquake and floods in the last decade while 2,234 people died last year in such incidents.

Jagan Chapagain, IFRC Asia Pacific director, said foreign investors are engaging in "land grabs" in several African countries.

"5-10 million hectare agricultural land has been lost to degradation. Biofuel production had diverted 20 million tons of food crops," he said.

PTI