The CPI(M) on Thursday slammed the Planning Commission estimates on poverty levels in the country, saying these made “a mockery of life and death struggles” of the people, amidst continuous rise in prices and “massive” slashing of subsidies for the poor.
“The urban poverty level definition would not be sufficient to buy even one kg of decent variety of rice in the open market today,” the CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury said.
Observing that national poverty line was estimated by Planning Commission at Rs. 33.33 in cities and Rs. 27.20 in villages per day per person, he said, “Anyone spending more than this amount not only on food but on consumption of all goods and services is not poor! There cannot be a more absurd and inhuman definition of being a non-poor person.”
Maintaining that UPA government was carrying out an “exercise of deceit” before elections to show that the poor had benefited during its tenure, he said, “The manner in which this has been done only reconfirms an age-old English adage -- there are lies, damned lies and statistics.”
In an editorial in the CPI(M) organ ‘People’s Democracy’, Mr. Yechury said these poverty lines were “not merely an absurdity but make a mockery of the life and death struggles to survive that the vast mass of our people are engaged with today.”
On top of “relentless” rise in prices of all essential commodities accompanied by regular and continuous hikes in the prices of fuel and petroleum products, there is massive reduction in the levels of subsidies, particularly on fertiliser, which are “wreaking havoc on the peasants already suffering from acute agrarian distress,” he said.
The plan panel’s definitions of poverty are “so abysmally low that they cannot maintain basic nutritional consumption, leave alone health, shelter, clothing and other essential requirements. Such definitions are even below what can be called destitution levels,” Mr. Yechury said.
Observing that any meaningful relief for the “suffering people” could come only through universal food security, he said this would mean that at least 90 per cent of the population were provided with at least 35 kgs of foodgrains at not more than Rs two per kg per family.
“Instead of this, the Food Security Bill which has been proposed by this UPA-2 government seeks to reduce the quantity to 25 kgs, increasing the price to Rs. 3 per kg.
“This would be grossly inadequate and rather than providing food security will only ensure greater food insecurity for our people,” Mr. Yechury said.
“National outrage” over these “ridiculously low levels” of poverty definitions had led the government to appoint a committee under Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council Chairman C Rangarajan to re-visit the methodology for tabulating poverty.
“This committee, however, is expected to submit its report only by mid-2014, that is well after the next general elections. Thereby, the UPA government can continue to mislead and fool people by such absurd statistics,” Mr. Yechury said.