It will not work at cross purposes with the Abhijit Sen committee: Ashwani Kumar

In a bid to address the rising concerns, within and outside Parliament, over the latest poverty estimates released by the Planning Commission, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday declared that a technical group would be put in place to come up a new methodology to capture the incidence of poverty.

Talking to reporters on the sidelines of a function, Dr. Singh said there was a need for a multi-layered process to assess poverty estimates and disclosed his decision to have a technical group take a considered view of all the inputs that had been called for.

Referring to the socio-economic caste census — currently underway — the Prime Minister said it would throw up fresh data.

He did not regard the Tendulkar Committee methodology, which was at the base of the current controversy, as all-inclusive.

Earlier in the day, Union Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs and Planning Ashwani Kumar told reporters that the Prime Minister had issued a directive in December to constitute a committee which would revisit and revise the methodology of estimating poverty consistent with the prevailing conditions.

Mr. Kumar said the technical group would be set up within six weeks to provide the poverty estimates based on the Hashim Committee report and the findings of the Socio-Economic Caste Census, which is yet to be completed.

Mr. Kumar said the new technical committee would not work at cross purposes with the committee set up under Planning Commission Member Abhijit Sen; the two committees would discharge their duties as defined by their respective terms of reference.

The Abhijit Sen committee had been set up jointly by Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia and Union Minister of Rural Development Jairam Ramesh in October last year to rework the methodology for poverty estimation to stem protests over the issue arising from the estimates provided in an affidavit to the Supreme Court.

The affidavit maintained that those with an expenditure of Rs.32 per day in urban areas and Rs.26 in rural areas were above the poverty line.

The commission had arrived at these numbers by adjusting the 2004-05 estimates with the prevailing inflation rate in 2011-12.

As per the estimates for 2009-10, which the commission released on Monday, the cut-off expenditures are Rs.28.65 in urban areas and Rs.22.43 in rural areas.

Mr. Kumar declined to answer a query as to why the commission had released the figures for 2009-10 when the government had decided in December itself to set up a committee to revisit the Tendulkar methodology.

Asked if the government had rejected the Tendulkar methodology, Mr. Kumar avoided a direct answer but said it was not realistic and needed to be revisited.

While stressing that the estimate of poverty had to be predicated on earnings that could satisfy basic human needs to ensure a life of dignity, Mr. Kumar admitted that some entitlements needed to flow based on them.

He, however, said the entitlement under the proposed Food Security Bill would be an exception and the beneficiaries would be estimated separately.

  • The group will be set up within 6 weeks, awaits caste census

  • Multi-layered process needed to assess poverty estimates: PM