Planning Commission’s Poverty Estimates – Fraud on the Poor

Adopted at the 20th Congress of the CPI(M), Kozhikode, April 4-9, 2012
Planning Commission’s Poverty Estimates – Fraud on the Poor
The 20th Congress of CPI (M) considers the recent manipulations of the Planning Commission of the poverty estimates are deliberate efforts to underestimate the level of poverty in the country. It has chosen Rs. 22.40 per day for an adult in rural areas and Rs. 28.65 per day for an adult in urban areas, in 2009-10 as the poverty line. Anyone spending more than that is being categorized as non-poor. These are extraordinarily low amounts and no Indian can fulfill even a part of his/her basic daily requirements with these amounts. Rather than poverty lines, they should be called destitute lines. To use such absurd cut-offs to estimate the poor in India is nothing but a cruel joke on their conditions of life and work.
In order to arrive at these absurdly low figures, the Planning Commission has reduced the per capita calorie norms required for an average Indian from 2400 calories per person per day in rural areas and 2100 per person per day in urban areas to 1770 calories per person per day. This itself was lower than the minimum set by the 15th Labour Conference (1957) of 2700 calorie.  Now Planning Commission cites that FAO had recommended 1770 calories as the amount of energy required for light or sedentary activity.  Such a definition cannot be taken as the calorie requirement of the poor in India, who are primarily engaged in heavy manual work.
On the basis of the new calculations the Planning Commission has claimed that the proportion of BPL persons has gone down by 7 per cent between 2004-05 and 2009-10. Given the enormity and acuteness of mass poverty in India, even a slight change in the poverty line can result in significantly different conclusions regarding the number of poor.  There is little to differentiate between people just above the poverty line and those below the poverty line.
The Planning Commission has under taken this fraudulent  exercise to reduce the number of poor eligible in various poverty alleviation programmes. This is part of the neo liberal fiscal strategy to squeeze public expenditure and contain budget deficits. It also is an ingenious effort to camouflage the growing process of immiserisation in India and create an impression that liberalisation has succeeded in reducing poverty.
The identification of BPL households, whose maximum numbers are already determined, has been carried out through BPL surveys, which are notorious for manipulation by the vested interests. As a result, crores of people deprived of the minimum basic needs in their daily life have been wrongly classified as APL across India. A large section of the poor in India are denied access to subsidised food purchase under the PDS, health insurance schemes, accident insurance schemes, housing schemes, pension schemes and self-employment programmes. Their ability to lead a dignified life is permanently disabled by this erroneous policy.

The 20th Congress of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) demands that the government reject the poverty estimates of the Planning Commission. The 20th Congress demands delinking of Planning Commission’s poverty estimates to allocations and benefits of government social sector schemes.  The 20th Congress reiterates the demand for universal PDS, health, education and social security pensions.