Trying to bring perceived seriousness and to stem the criticism the Congress was facing food prices, Law and IT Minister Kapil Sibal took an unusual step of challenging the method used by the Planning Commission to calculate poverty and said a family of five could not live on Rs 5,000 a month.
"If the Planning Commission said those who live above Rs 5,000 a month are not at poverty line, obviously there is something wrong with the definition of poverty in this country. How can anybody live at Rs 5,000?" Sibal questioned yesterday at a function in Kolkata.
Earlier in the week, the Commission had said that for a family of five, the all India poverty line in terms of consumption expenditure would amount to Rs 4,080 per month in rural areas and Rs 5,000 per month in urban areas.
Based on this criteria the plan panel had released the latest poverty estimates that showed the decline in people below poverty line to 21.9 in the financial year 2011-12 from 37.2 in 2004-05.
Following the Tendulkar methodology, the Commission had calculated the national poverty line at Rs 816 per capita per month in villages and Rs 1,000 per capita per month in cities.
Congress MP and spokesperson Raj Babbar had earlier said a full meal would cost Rs 12 in Mumbai and party MP Rashid Masood that it would cost Rs 5 in Delhi's Jama Masjid area. The meal remarks made by Babbar and Masood were dubbed as "absurd", "foolish" and "illogical" by BJP and others putting the Congress on the defensive.
Even as these Congress leaders offered beleted explanations on food and pverty in nation, Congress leader Digvijay Singh on Saturday joined Kapil Sibal in questioning the criteria for fixing poverty line.
Singh felt that malnourishment in members of family should be the criteria and that the existing method was too abstract and can't be same for all areas.
"I have always failed to understand the Planning Commission criteria for fixing poverty line. It is too abstract can't be same for all areas," the Congress general secretary said on the microblogging site twitter.
In another tweet, Singh made a strong pitch for linking poverty with malnutrition and anaemia.
"First indicator of poverty is malnourishment and anaemia in the family which is easily measurable. Can't we have that as a criteria?", he tweeted.
His remarks came a day after Sibal challenged the method used by the Planning Commission to calculate poverty
Both Sibal and Singh should offer solutions and the food security bill is certainly not the best of the solution to tackle food and poverty.