ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Delink Entitlements

We the undersigned economists do not consider the official national poverty lines set by the Planning Commission, at Rs 32 and Rs 26 per capita per day for urban and rural areas, respectively, to be acceptable benchmarks to measure the extent of poverty in India. In any case, irrespective of the methodology we adopt to measure poverty, the number of poor and hungry people in the country remains unacceptably large.

While academic debates can continue on the appropriate measure of poverty in India, its extent and whether it is decreasing over time, we strongly believe that it is unacceptable and counterproductive to link the official poverty estimates to basic entitlements of the people, especially access to food. Official surveys of nutritional intakes and outcomes indicate that undernutrition is much more widespread than income poverty, however defined. It is also widely recognised that the targeted public distribution system (PDS) introduced since 1997 has done more harm than good by creating divisions even among the poor and has led to massive errors of exclusion. Recent evidence clearly establishes that states which have moved towards near universalisation of the PDS have performed much better in increasing offtake and reducing leakages.

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