Poverty line issue sorted out, new definition soon

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NEW DELHI, October 3 (agencies) Consensus has been reached within the government on the contentious Rs.32 a day criteria for defining people below the poverty line, which drew flak from food rights activists, Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia said Monday.

The plan panel was severely criticised by activists, including influential members of the Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council, for its affidavit in the Supreme Court stating that the poverty line for urban areas could be provisionally placed at Rs.965 per capita per month (about Rs.32 per day).
The poverty line for rural areas was set at Rs.781 per capita per month (about Rs.26 per day).
After a meeting with Rural Development minister Jairam Ramesh in Yojana Bhawan here, Ahluwalia indicated that a new definition would be spelt out soon. ‘We have reached a consensus over the issue. He (Ramesh) would be joining me to address a press conference, where we will outline the agreement,’ he said.
This was corroborated by Ramesh, who said: ‘I have had an hour long discussion (with Ahluwalia) on the relation between poverty line and the rural development programme. We have reached a broad consensus.’
The clarifications come a day after Ahluwalia met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and briefed him on the issue.
The number of poor entitled to below poverty line (BPL) benefits, as per the affidavit, has been estimated at Rs.40.74 crore.
Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi is also learnt to have expressed his concern over the poverty line cut-offs.
National Advisory Council members Aruna Roy and N.C. Saxena were also critical of 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 the Suresh Tendulkar report.

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