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

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Planning Commission's Poverty Charade

Yojana Bhavan never seems to know how to count India's poor.

That the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government can on occasion after occasion mishandle a situation and also show insensitivity has been in evidence once again in its handling of the poverty figures estimated from the 66th (2009-10) round of the National Sample Survey (NSS). Although the Planning Commission’s estimates, as measured by the Tendulkar methodology, declined sharply from 37.2% in 200405 to 29.8% in 2009-10 during UPA-I’s tenure, this good news turned bad by the way it was presented.

The Planning Commission should not have been surprised that critics would point to the poverty cut-offs as being very low, since this issue was at the centre of the controversy in late 2011 when Yojana Bhavan scored an own-goal by petitioning itself into the Right to Food case in the Supreme Court. In this context, the Planning Commission’s press note on the new poverty figures did not anticipate the obvious: that poverty lines lower than those stated in Court needed explanation. It did not clarify on the extent of infl ation adjustment made between 2004-05 and 2009-10 nor explain that the Court had wanted 2011 poverty lines for which subsequent further inflation had also to be factored in. And it did not reiterate the earlier assurance that poverty estimates would not be used to set caps on the number of beneficiaries entitled to government schemes.

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