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

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Hypocrisy of 'Poverty Line'

The People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) wishes to draw public attention to the recent controversy where the Planning Commission informed the Supreme Court that anyone earning more than Rs 32 in urban and Rs 26 in rural areas per day is considered above the poverty line. Article 43 of India’s Constitution lays down that “(t)he state shall endeavour to secure by suitable legislation or economic organisation or in any other way to all workers, agricultural, industrial or otherwise, work, a living wage, conditions of work ensuring a decent standard of life and full enjoyment of leisure and social and cultural opportunities”. India’s low ranking in major human development indices and the fact that an overwhelming majority of the population continue to be denied this conceptualisation of what would be considered a “fair wage”, raises disturbing questions with regard to the ofcial standpoint on poverty.

In 1957, at the 15th Indian Labour Conference (ILC), moves were made towards setting norms for xing a minimum wage, a euphemism for a “living wage”. The 15th ILC recommended that in the rst place the standard working class family should be taken to mean husband, wife and two children below the age of 14 years. Second, minimum food requirement should be calculated on the basis of 2,700 calories daily per adult man, 2,160 for woman and 1,620 for the child. Further, clothing requirement of 72 yards for a family per annum would be added while housing allowance corresponding to the minimum area provided for under the government’s industrial housing schemes. Lastly, fuel, lighting and other items of expenditure should constitute 20% of the total minimum wage.

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