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Govt should redefine current poverty line: study

Written by: Staff

New Delhi, Feb 27 (UNI) The Government should revisit its concept of poverty by changing the way it is officially defined every five years in relation to the prevalent levels of general prosperity, a monograph on the subject says.

The planners seem to be taking John Stuart Mill literally because ''for decades the Planning Commission of India has followed a rather limited definition of poverty. The present official poverty line is based only on calories and hence accounts for little else but the satiation of one's hunger,'' economists Mohan Guruswamy and Ronald Joseph Abraham say.

In their 'Redefining Poverty: A New Poverty Line for A New India', they argue that the present poverty line is ''unrealistically low'', so low that if the Government were to hand out enough money to each poor family to buy food to be just above the official poverty line, it would cost around Rs 57,000 crores per year -- or 25 per cent of the Rs 2,27,000 crores it takes to maintain the bureaucracy.

The concept of food security needs to be upgraded to that of nutritious food security. In addition it should be the right of every citizen to have access to safe shelter, sanitation, healthcare, education and clothing.

''Only worrying about each citizen's foodgrain intake is clearly aiming too low,'' it says, adding that the State has responsibility to ensure that all the fundamental needs of the people are met.

The authors demanded an almost doubling of the current poverty line saying anyone earning less than Rs 840 a month should be considered the poorest of the poor.

Between 1973-2004, the percentage of the poor had come down from 54.9 per cent to 23.6 per cent, but in actual numbers it only came down from 32 to 25 crore people, they point out.

The current poverty line is flawed in that even people above the poverty line do not meet the calorific norm; the body needs much more than just calories; and that it ignores the non-food basic needs of the people, they say.


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