Issues concerning poverty definition resolved

New Delhi: Amid controversy over the definition of poverty, Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia and Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh today claimed that they have resolved the issue.

"Jairam and I had a very good meeting. I think we have resolved a number of important issues. I think we are in complete agreement," Ahluwalia told.

Ahluwalia and Ramesh will also be addressing a joint press conference later in the day to outline the strategy to counter wide spread criticism of Rs 32 per capita per day urban poverty line definition.

"There is broad consensus on the linkage between poverty line and rural development," Ramesh said after the meeting, which among others was attended by Plan panel members Abhijit Sen, Mihir Shah, Syeda Hameed and Narendra Jadhav.

Ahluwalia, who returned from his 10 day long foreign visit on Saturday, had met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the issue yesterday.

He had discussed with Singh the fall out of the controversy relating to the affidavit in the Supreme Court, which said that persons consuming items worth more than Rs 32 per day in urban areas and Rs 26 in rural areas are not poor.

As per the affidavit, a family of five spending less than Rs 4,824 per month in June, 2011, prices in urban areas will fall in the BPL category. The expenditure limit for a family in rural areas has been fixed at Rs 3,905.

The number of poor entitled to BPL benefits, as per the affidavit, has been estimated at 40.74 crore, as against 37.2 crore estimated at the time of accepting the Tendulkar Committee report.

Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi is believed to have intervened in the matter and has reportedly asked the Plan panel to do a rethink on its definition of poverty.

Even Ramesh had earlier expressed disagreement over the Commission`s formula for arriving at the poverty line of Rs 32 a day and Rs 26 a day in urban and rural areas respectively.

Besides, National Advisory Council member Aruna Roy and Harsh Mander challenged the Rs 32 per person poverty definition of the Commission.

Other members of the NAC, which is headed by Congress President Sonia Gandhi, too had opposed Commission`s definition.

Ridiculing the Commission`s poverty line, NAC member N C Saxena had said, "on Rs 32 a day, you know only dogs and animals can live. People who are spending below Rs 32 they are poorest of the poor. You can call them destitute, you can call them people living in sub-human level."

Concerned over the public outcry, Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni had said, "The Planning Commission had given an affidavit. When we asked for information from the panel regarding it, we were told that it is an initial document and not the final document."

These figures, she had said, "could undergo a change, who knows some other statistics may come up, which is acceptable to the Planning Commission. There is concern among people.

There is a certain disquiet in the civil society and some sections. They believe the statistics are perhaps somewhat removed from reality."