Plan panel uses best methodology: Ramesh

New Delhi: Joining the debate on controversial poverty line issue, Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh has said the surveys being conducted by the Planning Commission use the best available methodology which is refined all the time.

He suggested that these surveys should provide for automatic exclusion of those not deserving to benefit from social welfare schemes like government servants and tax payers.

"This is only one way of measuring poverty. You have to have a consistent methodology to see how poverty is going up or coming down. It is clear that poverty as measured by the way we have been measuring, it has come down," the Minister told reporters here reacting to queries on poverty debate.

"The controversy automatically starts when you start inclusion. In my view, administratively the simplest selection process is a process that is based on automatic exclusion. In exclusion you can identify," he said.

"I think, it is relatively easier in our country and relatively less controversial to have a selection process that is based on automatic exclusion," Ramesh said.

Ramesh`s view assumes significance in the wake of the statement by Minister of State for Planning Ashwani Kumar, who said that "there is need to revisit the methodology for poverty estimation".

Last week, the government had said a fresh group would be set up to devise a new method to assess the number of poor in the country.

Observing that poverty, deprivation and destitution are a reality in India, Ramesh has said the controversy over the Planning Commission pegging the poverty line at Rs 28.65 daily per capita consumption for cities and Rs 22.42 in rural areas started as it did not concentrate on the automatic exclusion of the beneficiaries.

The Minister said that India has been a pioneer in poverty measurement and pointed out that the methodologies for determining poor in the country had started 50 years ago when Pitambar Pant was the head of the perspective planning division in 1962 and these methodologies had been "refined" over the years.

"By the methodology we have adopted last 50 years, the rate of decline poverty in the 2004 and 2005 have been twice in the previous decades," Ramesh has said.

As per the Commission`s estimates, poverty ratio has declined to 29.8 per cent in 2009-10, from 37.2 per cent in 2004-05. But the ratio has been worked out based on a controversial per capita daily consumption of Rs 28.65 in cities and Rs 22.42 in rural areas.

He has blamed the media for treating "the serious issue of poverty measurement" in a "trivialised" manner and said that the rate of decline in poverty in the year 2004 and 2005 had been twice than the previous decades.

Ramesh also blamed the states for inflating poverty numbers. "In our political economy, the states have vested interest to inflate poverty numbers. Because, they get more money (from the Centre)," he has said.