People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 39

September 25, 2011

You Are Not Poor, If You Earn Rs 26!


The Planning Commission has now, in an affidavit to the Supreme Court, identified earning Rs 25 as being sufficient for not being poor in India! This is a slight improvement from their earlier stand. The People’s Democracy, in an editorial titled ‘Wither Food Security?’ in the May 29, 2011 issue had commented on it. The following is the relevant extract:


The agonising debates on the quantum of poverty in our country continue to be used as the reason and excuse to delay the promised National Food Security Act (NFSA).


In the ongoing proceedings on a public interest litigation before the Supreme Court, the Planning Commission has im-pleaded itself and claimed that an expenditure of Rs 20 per day on essential requirements for those living in urban areas and Rs 15 for those living in rural India was enough to keep them out of poverty. By implication, all others earning more are ruled out of the safety net proposed by the NFSA. 


This poverty line of Rs 20 per day for people living in the cities is worked out from the Planning Commission’s opinion that anybody with Rs 578 per month is not to be officially considered as poor.  As per its report, this amount includes a monthly expenditure of Rs 31 on rent and conveyance, Rs 18 on education,  Rs 25 on medicines and Rs 36.5 on vegetables.  A mockery! A fraud! In fact, both.


The ridiculousness of these figures can be gauged from the fact that the Planning Commission itself prescribes a minimum in-take of 2,400 calories daily to sustain oneself.  This requires an expenditure of at least Rs 44 per day.  This, of course, does not include any expenditures on shelter, clothing, education, transportation etc. 


The Planning Commission, on the basis of its reasoning, takes the poverty ratio at 33 per cent of our population.  The National Advisory Council has suggested a ratio of 46 per cent. Both these estimations fall woefully short of the late Arjun Sengupta’s estimation that 77 per cent of our population is currently surviving on less than Rs 20 a day.


Such sham exercises not only make a mockery of the commitment to provide food security in our country. They, in fact, mask the real intention of aggressively pursuing the neo-liberal economic policies which continue to widen the hiatus between the two Indias, making the life of a vast majority of our people more miserable. 


 (May 25, 2011)