Expected to clarify Planning Commission's stand on the issue today

Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia on Sunday called on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the wake of the controversy over the Commission's Rs. 32 per capita per day definition of poverty line. He is expected to clarify the Commission's stand on the issue on Monday.

The controversy broke out after an affidavit was filed by the Commission in the Supreme Court.

Mr. Ahluwalia, who returned from a 10-day foreign tour on Saturday, is believed to have discussed the rationale for the definition and the fallout of the controversy.

He is scheduled to meet Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh on Monday to discuss the issue. Mr. Ramesh too has been critical of the poverty line definition.

As per the affidavit, a family of five spending less than Rs. 4,824 (at June 2011 prices) in urban areas and less than Rs. 3,905 in rural areas would fall under the BPL (below poverty line) category. This meant that a person consuming items worth more than Rs. 32 a day in urban areas and Rs. 26 in rural areas was not poor.

The Commission had been under fire from several quarters, including several members of the Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council — Aruna Roy, Harsh Mander and N.C. Saxena.

In a statement, a group of 27 prominent economists, including the former West Bengal Finance Minister, Ashok Mitra, has said the definitions are “unacceptable benchmarks to measure the extent of poverty in the country” and made a forceful plea to delink food entitlements from the “faulty” poverty measure.

The statement was signed, among others, by the former Minister and Chairman of the 1977 Task Force on Poverty Estimation, Yoginder K.Alagh; Director of the Kolkata-based Institute of Development Studies, Amiya Kumar Bagchi; the former UGC Chairperson, S.K. Thorat; and the former Vice-Chairman of the Kerala State Planning Board, Prabhat Patnaik.

Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi is also reported to have intervened in the matter and is believed to have asked the Commission to take a re-look on the definition of poverty line.

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