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NITI Aayog likely to draw the line on poverty

Move seen as yardstick to measure efficacy of government schemes

Sanjeeb Mukherjee  |  New Delhi 

A high-powered taskforce on poverty elimination, constituted under vice-chairman of NITI Aayog Arvind Panagariya, is expected to favour the need for a poverty line for comparing their impact of government programmes on the lives of lower strata of society over a period of time. However, the taskforce is likely to leave the responsibility of calculating that number open-ended.

Even as talks are on to use the recently-released Socio Economic Cast Census (SECC) of rural households and yet-to-be-released urban numbers for targeting government programmes and subsidies, the poverty ratio would give a better understanding of these distributions and help in improving these schemes.

According to a senior official, the taskforce, whose tenure has been extended till the last week of August, is expected to finalise its recommendations in the next few weeks. Its term was to expire in June this year. Those involved in the task force said the calculation of the poverty line could be done either by the Aayog itself or the National Statistical Commission, headed by former chief statistician Pronab Sen.

The taskforce is also expected to highlight the need for sustained economic growth and composition of that growth as being the imperatives to bring down poverty. Public intervention and need for household-level subsidies are also expected to be stressed upon as being other factors to lower poverty.

Officials said a point of view, which says that when the SECC for Rural India has already thrown up a number in absolute terms based on certain deprivations and there is no need to recalculate poverty based on any other criteria, could find mention in the taskforce report.

The opposite view will also find place in the final report, but the dominant view emerging is that there should indeed be a national poverty number, but who should do the calculation ought to be left open-ended, the official remarked. The taskforce recommendations would come, even as the erstwhile Planning Commission landed itself in a number of controversies relating to poverty line and yardsticks for calculating that. It revised its numbers later, but that had also earned flak from various quarters.

An earlier method, based on the Suresh Tendulkar methodology, had said taken anyone spending more than Rs 33 in urban areas and over Rs 27 in villages a day in 2011-12 as not poor. Later, the Rangarajan panel had pegged these as Rs 47 a day in urban areas and Rs 32 in villages. Apart from Panagariya, the other members of the taskforce include Bibek Debroy, member of NITI Aayog, and experts like Rathin Roy, Surjit Bhalla and the government's chief statistician, T C A Anant.

POVERTY TASKFORCE
  • NITI Aayog taskforce on poverty elimination expected to recommend use of poverty line to analyse poverty over time and better understand allocation of resources to the poor
  • Taskforce could also suggest better targeting of household subsidies to eliminate poverty faster
  • The poverty calculation could be left in the hands of either NITI Aayog or National Statistical Commission
  • Aayog plans to bring down the staff strength to below 600 in the next six months from the current 1,000 plus
  • Recruitment of advisors through the normal official channel to continue apart from hiring consultants from the private sector

First Published: Mon, July 27 2015. 00:40 IST
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