Reconsider Poverty Line level, say experts

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Raipur, Mar 25 (UNI) A national workshop on food security today urged the Centre to reconsider the Poverty Line level so that the ''real poor'' could obtain benefits of the Public Distribution System and to make all offences under PDS cognisable and non-bailable.

''What is the rationale of 27 per cent people being accepted by the Planning Commission as Below Poverty Line (BPL) when prevalence of malnutrition exceeds 50 per cent,'' asked Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh while inaugurating the workshop on 'Food Security through PDS: Prospects and Challenges' organised here by the state government.

Pointing out that Poverty Line level had to be reconsidered so that the real poor -- who are left out -- could be included under PDS, he said that Chhattisgarh has already done so on its own at an annual cost Rs 837 crore by launching a food security scheme. The state government has been ''able'' to provide subsidised rice at Rs 3 per kg to 70 per cent of families.

''It is because of this reason that we ignored the technical Poverty Line and included all the poor in the scheme,'' Dr Singh said while claiming that his government had also taken major initiatives towards better monitoring of PDS through computerisation.

Justice D P Wadhwa -- who chairs a Central Vigilance Committee (CVC) on PDS -- and Dr N C Saxena -- Commissioner to the Supreme Court in the right to food case -- supported reconsidering the Poverty Line level, arguing that Poverty Line had been set at unreasonably low levels.

Justice Wadhwa said that the Delhi government has not only accepted the CVC recommendation to double the income criteria but further enhanced it to Rs 1 lakh while Dr Saxena felt that the number of BPL families must be doubled to ensure that the poorest sections get covered. ''If this means increasing BPL to even 70 per cent of the rural population and eliminating the Above Poverty Line category completely, it must be done,'' he added.

Quoting a national sample survey, Dr Saxena said that nearly 50 per cent of the country's poorest families did not have access to subsidised foodgrain. He lauded the Chhattisgarh government's efforts to improve food security of the poorest households saying that it could be a model for the rest of the country.

Referring to the delivery mechanism, Justice Wadhwa alleged that corruption plagued the system, starting from the Food Corporation of India. Two ways to dealing with this was to strengthen the legal regime on PDS and to go in for complete computerisation of PDS, he added.

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