NEW DELHI: Under attack from within Congress and outside on the controversial poverty line cut off, the Planning Commission Monday said a new methodology will be worked out to determine entitlements of beneficiaries under various schemes for poor.
It distanced itself from the Rs 32 poverty line yardstick presented to the Supreme Court in an affidavit recently saying that was based on the report of Tendulkar Committee. The affidavit came under all-round attack after the Commission had said that persons consuming items worth more than Rs 32 per day in urban areas (Rs 26 in rural areas) are not poor.
There was criticism from within the Congress, including reportedly from Mr Rahul Gandhi, and the Planning Commission Deputy Chairman, Dr Montek Singh Ahluwalia met the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh Sunday ahead of Monday’s clarification.
At a joint press conference, Dr Ahluwalia and the Rural Development Minister, Mr Jairam Ramesh said that a socio-economic and caste-economic census was underway to survey all rural households to collect information about socio-economic indicators that is expected to be completed by January next year.
An expert committee will be appointed to ensure that the new methodology is consistent with the provisions of the Food Security Bill as it finally emerges, a joint statement issued by Dr Ahluwalia and Mr Ramesh said. The current weaknesses in identification of households under BPL will be corrected by determining eligibility for the priority category under a new scientific socio-economic and caste-economic census underway.
Dr Ahluwalia said the affidavit filed in the Supreme Court was based on methodology for computing poverty suggested by the Tendulkar Committee. “To summarise, there is no reason to fear that the Tendulkar Committee poverty result in exclusion of families otherwise deserving special assistance,” Dr Ahluwalia said.
While making it clear that the Tendulkar poverty line will remain a relevant reference point on efforts to take more and more people above poverty line, eligibility for subsidised food and indeed other benefits will be widened to a much larger population delinked from the poverty line, he said.
He said that the Tendulkar poverty line was not meant to be an acceptable level of living for the ‘aam aadmi’ (common man) by the Planning Commission. “It is actually the standard of living of those at the poverty line in 1973-74. This is clearly a level below which families are under severe stress, which is the basis of giving them exceptional support as embedded in various poverty amelioration policies including subsidised food and other facilities. “The level is low and, therefore, the families slightly above the poverty line are also vulnerable,” he added. Mr Ramesh said the government will take into account multiple dimensions of deprivation that are being collected through the census for arriving at specific entitlements that rural households will receive under various central government programmes and schemes.