Demands PM's assurance that measures will not be used to deny BPL cards to the poor

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) on Tuesday condemned the “efforts” of the Planning Commission to use “fraudulent” methods to deliberately underestimate the level of poverty in the country.

In a statement, the Polit Bureau said that in spite of the national outrage when the Planning Commission had given its earlier estimates to the Supreme Court, it has retained the same poverty measure suggested by the Tendulkar Committee.

This has meant an “absurdly low” national poverty line of Rs. 22.40 per day for an adult in rural areas and Rs. 28.65 per day for an adult in urban areas in 2009-10. Anyone spending more than this is being categorised non-poor. On the basis of these flawed figures, the Planning Commission claims that the proportion of below poverty line (BPL) persons has gone down by 7 per cent between 2004-05 and 2009-10.

“This shows the huge gap between the members of the Planning Commission and the reality lived by crores of people in this country who have been burdened by relentless price rise amid meagre incomes. It hardly needs to be stated that these are destitution lines and it is a shame that an institution chaired by the Prime Minister should produce such absurd figures,” the statement said. It said what was “shocking” is that even with these gross under-estimates, large proportions of our population are shown to continue living in destitution. The proportion ranges from 37-39 per cent in States like Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha to around 50 per cent in Bihar and Chhattisgarh.

“Shockingly, the north-eastern States of Assam, Manipur and Nagaland are showing an increase in destitution levels. This calls the bluff of ‘inclusive growth' under the UPA government,” the statement said.

Referring to the recently released Household Amenities and Assets Census 2011, it said the figures show the extent of poverty in different spheres in India. The CPI(M) considers the Planning Commission's poverty estimates to be a “dishonest attempt” to conceal the reality of glaring inequalities and increasing poverty in India.

It demanded that the Prime Minister make a categorical statement that these measures would not be used to deny poor people of their right to BPL cards or be used as a benchmark for allocating funds to the States or for welfare programmes.

Earlier, members in the Rajya Sabha raised the issue as soon as the House assembled for the day. Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Pawan Kumar Bansal said the issue could be raised when the House discusses the general budget and that the government would request the Minister concerned to inform the House on the issue.

Keywords: Indian poverty

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