Opposition parties attacked the government today for the ‘obscenity’ of its poverty estimate figures. Both the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) asked the Prime Minister to direct the Planning Commission not to be “dishonest” about enumerating the poor to just reduce subsidies.
In a statement, the CPI(M) said even the recently released Household Amenities and Assets Census of 2011 showed the extent of poverty in different spheres but the Commission had set an “absurdly low” national poverty line of Rs 22.4 per day for an adult in rural areas and Rs 28.65 per day for an adult in urban areas in 2009-10.
“Anyone spending more that this is being categorised as non-poor. On the basis of these flawed figures, the Commission claims the proportion of Below Poverty Line (BPL) persons has gone down by seven per cent between 2004-05 and 2009-10,” the party said.
It said it considers such estimates to be a “dishonest attempt” to conceal the reality of glaring inequalities and increasing poverty. “The CPI (M) demands the prime minister make a categorical statement that these fraudulent poverty measures will not be used to deny poor people their right to BPL cards or be used as a benchmark for allocating funds to the states or for welfare programmes,” it said.
Condemning the use of “fraudulent methods to deliberately underestimate” the level of poverty, it said in spite of the outrage when the Commission had given its earlier estimates to the Supreme Court, it had retained the same poverty measure suggested by the Tendulkar committee.
“This shows the huge gap between the members of the Planning Commission and the reality lived by crores of people in this country who have been burdened by relentless price rise amidst meagre incomes. It hardly needs to be stated that these are destitution lines and it is a shame that an institution chaired by the prime minister should produce such absurd figures,” it said
The BJP also flayed the government for unrealistic poverty figures and sought an estimate of the poor based on the calorific value of food. Party senior S S Ahluwalia said a government that pretended to represent working people needed to take a composite view of poverty, based not just on livelihood but also on shelter and clothing.