Poor estimates PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 22 September 2011 00:00
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The Planning Commission’s affidavit to the Supreme Court that anyone spending more than R965 per month in urban areas and R781 in rural areas is not poor has got everyone in a tizzy since the language of the affidavit suggests the expenditure is adequate. Poverty experts such as Jean Drèze have ripped into it, pointing out that the one rupee per day allocated for health expenses isn’t even enough to buy an aspirin. Put some of the other numbers—R5.5 on cereals, R2.3 on milk and R1.6 on edible oil per day—and it looks even more ridiculous. While there’s little doubt the affidavit is insensitively crafted, the estimates are just an extension of the poverty-line created by the late Prof Suresh Tendulkar, a respected poverty expert. The numbers also look less ridiculous when juxtaposed with other numbers. When wheat is sold at R4.2 per kg for the poor in ration shops, R5.5 per day isn’t a bad number. Similarly, when government dispensaries and primary care centres are supposed to provide free healthcare to the poor, the one rupee provided for seems less hurtful. That the poor don’t get much of the PDS and that the government healthcare system is bust is a different matter, and strengthens the case for direct cash transfers.

Since the government spends around R3,00,000 crore annually on the poor, that’s R6,666 for each of India’s 450 million poor. Add this in, and an urban BPL family of four gets R6,082 to spend per month. Also keep in mind that, NCAER data show, that 23% of the Tendulkar poor in rural areas had a ceiling fan in 2004-05 (71% for the urban poor); 7.5% of the rural poor had a 2-wheeler, as did 21.3% of the urban poor. This doesn’t depict high living, but it doesn’t depict burning poverty either.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 22 March 2012 06:20 )

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