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Planning Commission to set up panel to measure poverty

Andhra Pardesh,Business/Economy, Sat, 07 Apr 2012 IANS

Hyderabad, April 7 (IANS) Facing criticism over the methodology being adopted to measure poverty, the Planning Commission will soon set up a technical committee comprising experts to look into the whole issue.


Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia Saturday said the committee would be announced in next couple of weeks.


"We are working on the terms of reference (of the committee). The broad scope is to take a look at different criticisms that have been made and also should there be a multi-dimensional measure of poverty," he told reporters here on the sidelines of Prime Minister's Rural Development Fellows Programme.


He said based on the recommendations of the proposed panel, poverty would be measured against the new bench-mark from the 12th five-year plan onwards.


Ahluwalia said there was a need to have a multi-dimensional approach to measure poverty.


"The prime minister himself said that this poverty line is only linked to consumption but poverty may not just have to do with consumption but also with running water connection, pucca or kutcha house and you could have two or three other dimensions of poverty."


He clarified that poverty line was not linked to the benefits under various social sector schemes of the government like free education, rural jobs and food security.


"The poverty line of Tendulkar committee is no longer linked to benefits and it is only serving the purpose to measure what is happening and to judge effectiveness of the policy," he said.


According to the commission, poverty ratio, based on the Tendulkar committee formula, has declined to 29.8 percent in 2009-10, from 37.2 percent in 2004-05.


However, the commission has come under criticism for arriving at this figure on the basis of per capita daily consumption of Rs.28.65 in cities and Rs.22.42 in rural areas.


Ahluwalia clarified that the figures of Rs.32 and Rs.26 per capita daily consumption were arrived at by social activists.


The Planning Commission has set the poverty line at Rs.4,500 per month per family (of five) in urban areas and Rs.3,900 per month per family in rural areas.


He said the government recognised that in the group above the poverty line there was a is very vulnerable section and hence added 16 percent in addition to the 30 percent poor under the food security act.


"The next 35 percent is 'aam admi'. Only 20 percent is better off class and only top 1 percent is rich."


Claiming that the poverty ratio had indeed come down, Ahluwalia remarked that the criticism of this claim was due to the "unwillingness to accept the fact that the growth we have seen is more inclusive than earlier".


The Planning Commission deputy chairman said that before the United Progressive Alliance came to power in 2004, the decline in poverty ratio per year was 0.74 percent but after 2004, poverty reduction ratio has improved to 1.5 percent.


"When the data of 2011-12 comes in, this 1.5 percent will become bigger," he said, basing his prediction on the fact that 2009-10 when poverty was last measured was a drought year.


"There are still 360 million people who are very very poor. I don't see the point in showing the picture of poor people as if Planning Commission has said poverty has been abolished. We have never said that," he said.


"Let us not denigrate the progress being made," said Ahluwalia, adding that a completely unprincipled publicity campaign was being run for different purposes.


Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh alleged that misconceptions were being spread by "self-styled champions" and "self-appointed advisors".


"The poverty debate today in India is completely ill-informed. It is hysterical and it has trivialized the more serious issue. The real issue is 300 million people who are poor. You don't find in any other country the type of poverty you find in India. Nobody is talking about that," Ramesh added.


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