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World The Great Poverty Debate

Discussion in 'Breaking News' started by kds1980, Jul 30, 2009.

  1. kds1980

    kds1980 India
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    Apr 4, 2005
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    The Great Poverty Debate
    Mansukh Kaur

    [​IMG]At a time when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh incessantly talks of inclusive growth, a concept that the Sikh community can only welcome because it is in perfect congruence with the high ideals of a quom that prays every day for Sarbat Da Bhala, it is very important that we have a re-look at how the poor are defined in India.
    Indian poverty data is collected in the form of population earning less than a miserable sum required for subsistence level survival. This is called Below Poverty Line (BPL) population.
    New Delhi is keen to ensure food security for the poorer sections of the society, but the below-poverty-line debate continues unabated with consensus on the issue among the policy planners remaining elusive. Now, adding a new dimension to the issue, Planning Commission member Abhjit Sen has argued that evaluation of poverty should be done on the basis of income rather than calorie intake.
    Sen reasoned that if one factored in calorie intake of 2,400 for rural areas and 2,100 for urban areas, then 64 per cent of urban India and 80 per cent of rural India would be below the poverty line. A rural development ministry panel had said that 50 per cent of Indians are below the poverty line considering the criterion of calorie intake and suggested that they be covered under BPL schemes.
    As per the plan panel's estimation in 2004-05, India has 30 crore people living below the poverty line. But according to the rural development ministry's 2002 poverty census, India had over 40 crore poor people. Again the World Bank on basis of 1.25 dollars per day believes that India has 45 crore poor people. So clearly there is no consensus on the quantum of populace living below the poverty line.
    The commission member pointed out that the rural development ministry committee's recommendation this year on he estimation of BPL families was not binding on the government, as it was not a term of reference for the committee. "The committee was asked to define the criteria for identifying families below the poverty line," he said. The government had entrusted the job of estimation of poverty to a committee headed by S D Tendulkar, chairman of the Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council. It is yet to submit its report.
    How many poor in India? There are many answers. New Delhi’s Planning Commission India has 30 crore people living below the poverty line. But its Rural Development ministry says the figure is over 40 crore. Again the World Bank on basis of 1.25 dollars per day believes India has 45 crore poor people. Now, Abhijit Sen, a top Planning Commission member and respected economist says if one factored in calorie intake of 2,400 for rural areas and 2,100 for urban areas, then 64 per cent of urban India and 80 per cent of rural India would be below the poverty line.
    With the committee igniting a debate on India's poverty figures, Sen said a mix of food and monthly expenditure based criteria would be a good idea for poverty estimation. But even as we wait for the Tendulkar committee, it is important to look closer home and see how is the poverty data panned out in Punjab.
    For Punjab, the BPL stands at Rs 356 a month for rural areas and Rs 539 a month for urban areas. That meant anyone earning Rs 12 a day or more will not be considered as being below the poverty line in Punjab’s villages.
    Even with such shameless data, Punjab has a fig leaf of a figure to defend itself as the proportion of such population in Punjab was 8.4 per cent this year, better than the Indian national figure of 27.5 per cent. But the real story lies in the break up of this data. While the figures for Punjab for BPL population stand at 8.4 per cent, in Muktsar district, 28.3 per cent of the rural population lives below the poverty line while 22.8 per cent are condemned to survive on less than Rs 18 a day.
    That shows the situation as worse as in the rest of India since the national figures for BPL families are 28.3 per cent for rural areas and 27.5 per cent urban townships and cities.
    Senior economist Sucha Singh Gill has underlined how the BPL figures in rural areas for Moga (25.2 per cent), Faridkot (23.9 per cent), Bathinda (23.1 per cent), Ferozepore (17.5 per cent) and Mansa (16.6 per cent) prove that the politicians have found it more convenient to perpetuate poverty rather than ameliorate it.
    Moving away from the areas represented by the Badals, Bhattal, Harcharan Brar, Partap Singh Kairon, the northern district of Gurdaspur has 2.3 per cent rural population below poverty line and all districts of Doaba region like Jalandhar (0.9 per cent), Nawanshahr (1.2 per cent), Hoshiarpur (1.7 per cent) and Kapurthala (4.2 per cent) show a very low incidence of rural poverty.
    The NSSO data also shows that the districts which display the highest level of rural poverty in the state have the highest proportion of population dependent on agriculture.
    15 July 2009
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