New Delhi, March 25 (IANS) Debunking the government's claim that the number of poor in India has come down, a top adviser has claimed that around 70 percent of the country's 1.2 billion population is poor, and stressed the need for a multi-dimensional assessment of poverty.
"The government claim that poverty has come down is not valid... there is a need for a multi-dimensional assessment of poverty as around 70 percent of the population is poor," National Advisory Council member N.C. Saxena told IANS in an interview.
According to Saxena, the various poverty estimates the government relies on to assess the impact of developmental schemes are faulty as they fail to factor in the lack of nutritional diet, sanitation, drinking water, healthcare and educational facilities available to the people.
The former bureaucrat, who now is part of the NAC that reports to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, claimed that not only the National Sample Survey Organisation data is faulty, the ongoing Socio-Economic and Caste Census, which is expected to throw up the latest poverty estimates, is highly flawed.
"The NSSO data is unreliable and the SECC is highly flawed," said Saxena.
The National Advisory Council (NAC) was set up as an interface with civil society. The NAC provides policy and legislative inputs to the government with special focus on social policy and the rights of disadvantaged groups.
After the government faced flak over its latest poverty estimates, according to which anyone earning over Rs.28 per day in urban areas and Rs.26 per day in rural areas is not poor, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said a multi-layered approach is required to assess poverty as the widely accepted Tendulkar committee report "is not all inclusive".
The government now plans to set up another expert panel to devise a new methodology to assess poverty levels in the country, said the prime minister.
The government recently revised its poverty estimates from earlier Rs.32 per day in urban areas and Rs.26 per day in rural areas based on 2011 prices, to the current estimate which is based on 2009 prices.
Using the Tendulkar panel report, the Planning Commission pegged poverty at 37.5 percent of the population.
Saxena said in reality out of about 200 centrally sponsored schemes, only 5 or 6 are linked to the poverty estimates, pegged at 37.5 percent by the Planning Commission.
Having a realistic assessment of poverty in not only crucial for the government to ensure that around Rs.80,000 crore that it spends on various welfare schemes annually reaches only the genuinely poor, it is also important for the United Progressive Alliance which hopes to roll out the ambitious National Food Security Bill, which aims to provide subsidised rations to around 65 percent of the 1.2 billion population some time next year.
(Amit Agnihotri can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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