Even as a controversy rages over the Rs. 32 per capita per day poverty line, Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia has said “it is not all that ridiculous” in Indian conditions.
“The fact is that Rs. 4,824 per month for a family [of five] to define poverty is not comfortable but it is not all that ridiculous in Indian conditions,” Mr. Ahluwalia said in a letter to Attorney-General Goolam Vahanvati.
Mr. Vahanvati has agreed to appear in the Supreme Court on behalf of the Planning Commission in connection with a public interest litigation petition filed by the Right to Food Campaign.
The Commission has drawn flak from several quarters, including civil society, for pegging poverty in urban areas at Rs. 32 per capita per day. The figure in rural areas is Rs. 26 a day.
Referring to the criticism on the poverty line, Mr. Ahluwalia said:
“Social activists have vociferously criticised the latest poverty line of Rs. 3,905 for rural areas and Rs. 4,824 in urban areas as a ‘cruel joke' by converting the figure into per person per day i.e. Rs. 26 and Rs. 32 respectively.
“Many people are persuaded by this because they sometimes think of daily allowance as meant for family budget...it does not need to be emphasised that the poverty line is not a comfort line of acceptable living for the aam aadmi. It is a poverty line which by definition implies considerable stress.”
On States' criticism that the Planning Commission was understating poverty, leaving out deserving individuals, Mr. Ahluwalia said: “The fact...is that the States gave many more below poverty line [BPL] cards than their entitlement and what is worse is, they often did not give the cards to deserving people.”