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Tuesday 4 October 2011

Plan panel backs down, removes Rs 32 BPL cap

Rupashree Nanda CNN-IBN | 03-Oct 21:00 PM

New Delhi: The Planning Commission has backed down after fixing Rs 32 for urban areas and Rs 26 per day for rural areas as the poverty line in an affidavit in the Supreme Court. The Commission said that the cap will not apply for government schemes for the poor.

Now, a new Socio Economic Census will decide beneficiaries of public distribution system.

Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, who worked out the face saver after talks with Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh on Monday, announced that an expert committee will be set up to determine the poverty yardstick.

The poverty line remains where it is, but it will no longer define who is poor in India.

This decision that put the planning commission on the backfoot came after the much awaited meeting between Jairam Ramesh and Montek Singh Ahluwalia.

The poverty line controversy sparked off by the Planning Commission affidavit in the Supreme Court which claimed that a sum of Rs 26 and Rs 32 per day per person is adequate for food, health and education.

Montek had to acknowledge that the figures are too low to be real.

"It is not true that the Planning Commission is trying to downplay the yardstick. We know that even households above that level are also vulnerable. It's not our opinion that benefits should only be for those below poverty line," Montek said.

The government will wait for the findings of the Socio Economic Caste Census that is currently on to rank all families on a scale of one to seven. There are categories of automatic inclusion like primitive tribal groups. There are also categories for automatic exclusion, for example, if someone in one's family has a government job.

For the first time in decades the Planning Commission's poverty line will have no impact on what benefits accrue to people on the ground. But the fear is, will the new committee be old wine in a new bottle?

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