Deviating from its earlier stand of delinking entitlements under flagship schemes from the poverty line,Planning Commission today indicated that benefits to poor,given under some social sector programmes,would be provided on the basis of its estimates.
“…some of the entitlements (under the government schemes) will need to flow from the poverty estimates unless we have made conscious exception like in the case of Food Security Bill”,Minister of State for Planning Ashwani Kumar said.
Kumar also announced setting up of an expert group to revisit the methodology of the Tendulkar Committee for estimating poverty in the country,after the Commission came under attack on its latest poverty line.
As per the Commission’s estimates,poverty ratio has been pegged at 29.8 per cent in 2009-10,down from 37.2 per cent in 2004-05. These are based on the daily per capita consumption of Rs 28.65 in urban cities and Rs 22.42 in rural areas.
These poverty estimates released by the Commission on Tuesday sparked a similar outcry as was witnessed when the panel in an affidavit to the Supreme Court last year said that persons consuming items worth more than Rs 32 per day in urban areas (Rs 26 in rural areas) were not poor.
After that controversy,in October last year,the Commission made it clear that a new methodology would be worked out to determine social sector entitlements under the poverty alleviation schemes of the government.
Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia had said in a joint statement with Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh,that these figures (poverty estimates based on Tendulkar Committee methodology) would not be used for extending benefits to the deprived sections of the population.
While making it clear that the Tendulkar poverty line would remain a relevant reference point on efforts to take more and more people above poverty line,eligibility for subsidised food and indeed other benefits would be widened to a much larger population delinked from the poverty line,Ahluwalia had said.
“To summarise,there is no reason to fear that the Tendulkar committee poverty result in exclusion of families otherwise deserving special assistance,” Ahluwalia had said.
According to methodology recommended by the Tendulkar Committee,besides calorie intake,spent on health and education is also factored while fixing a poverty line.
Yesterday,Ahluwalia had clarified that the discrepancy in the data had led to fixing such a low poverty line in the latest estimates for 2009-10.
The latest poverty line fixed by the Commission was widely criticised and condemned in and outside Parliament.
Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh sought removal of Ahluwalia from the post of Deputy Chairman of the Commission fixing poverty line so low.
“The Prime Minister is responsible as he is the Chairman of the Commission. He should remove the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission from the post,” Singh has said.