Home » News » India » Poverty measured on basis of calorie intake is flawed: Rupashree Nanda

Poverty measured on basis of calorie intake is flawed: Rupashree Nanda


Last Updated: July 29, 2013, 17:21 IST

Poverty measured on basis of calorie intake is flawed: Rupashree Nanda

Is the current measure of poverty line a joke?

People with per capita consumption of Rs 33 in urban India and Rs 28 in rural India are held as above poverty line in India. Is the current measure of poverty line a joke? CNN-IBN's special correspondent Rupashree Nanda joined IBNLive readers for an interaction on the issue.

Q. I think that calculating poverty line on the basis of calories intake or consumption expenditure is flawed. Instead Health indicators should be the most important criteria as Health of an individual is the most direct manifestation of his/her economic situation. What say ma'am? (Also congrats for winning Goenka Award (-;). Asked by: Apoorva Krishna Srivastava

A. Thanks Apoorva, I agree that computing poverty line simply on calorie intake is deeply flawed. Infact,critics have termed this as a starvation line. The Tendulkar committee set up in 2009 did move away from anchoring the poverty line in calorie intake. However, the Tendulkar line had no acceptability- a fact conceded by Montek Singh Ahluwalia himself. Following criticism of the Tendulkar line, another panel was set up under Dr Rangarajan which is expected to give its report sometime next year. Yes, health indicators are very important. Expenditure on health is one of the biggest reasons for indebtedness in rural areas.In the Supreme Court, it has been argued that the minimum wage be made the poverty line.

Q. The 33 pp per day expense includes housing and other basic expenses like clothing and bare min. toiletries? Isnt't that right. I observe, media and most people just tend to equate this as fooding expense!! Asked by: S Chaturvedi

A. Yes Chaturvedi, it does. And that only goes to emphasise the disconnect between the estimates of the planning commission and the reality on the ground. Planning commission believes that 33/- is adequate to meet expenses towards " food, health and education". This weekend we spent a day with a family in Nizam Nagar. This family spent 10/- in the morning alone just accessing the public toilet. They paid 2000/- for a room but that room did not have a toilet! And one full cup of tea cost 6/- ! The cap of 33/- a day does not stand to reason.

Q. Shouldn't the Per Capita Money needed be directly be equal to the DA rate and at least two times of the Inflation rate so that the weakest sections could be provided with a social/food security in cash for living with dignity if the state fails to provide employment to all hands. Asked by: Dhananjay Kashyap

A. Dhananjay, that is never going to happen. But, moving away from the strictly per capita expenditure norm, the N C Saxena panel had recommended easily verifiable and transparent criterias both for automatic inclusion and automatic exclusion - following this, the Saxena panel had estimated poverty at 50 percent.

Q. Poverty line in far better then the value of p line in 2003-04 when it was just 18 rs per head.then why has so hype been created? Its also higher then the world bank poverty line. Asked by: Narendra singh dhaked

A. Narendra, the main point is not whether it is higher than what it was a few years ago. The main issue over here is whether the Tendulkar poverty line actually does what it claims to? Is a sum of 33/- adequate to meet expenses not just for food but even health and education? It was this claim in the Supreme Court that sparked a debate. This figure has been greeted with anger by the common man. Can you live on 33/- a day?

Q. After 60 years of independence, still there are people who doesn't have opportunity to earn even Rs. 28 per day. Shame on all the government who ruled this nation. Added, if this how all the other parameters of this country is measured, Oh! God! Please save my India. Asked by: Sri Kumar

A. I can only say that the recent claim by the government of reducing poverty based on the Tendulkar line has backfired. Remember, in March 2012, Aswini Kumar had said clearly that since the government had decided to revist the Tendulkar line it was implicit that the poverty line was inadequate. The Rangarajan panel is yet to submit its report. So the question is why did the planning commission fall back on the Tendulkar line?

Q. The politicians need to be practically given the figure they claim can buy them food and this should be not for one day but for at least a month so that they would realize that they would not be able to survive and land up in a hospital VVIP ward> Don't you think it is not only a joke but it is a joke on the poor? Asked by: Anonymous

A. Politicians need a reality check. The statements of the three congress politicians that meals are available for 12/-, 5/-, and 1/- is echoing in every household - it has sparked anger and it has also exposed the deep disconnect between the government and the aam aadmi. The damage done by these statements cannot be undone and rightfully so.

Q. Is the Govt resorting to obsolete methodolgy to arrive at these shocking figures which is nothing but a mockery of poors? Secondly what should be the reasonable poverty line figures according to you? Asked by: Himanshu

A. The worst part is that last year the planning commission had said that the Tendulkar poverty line will be re visited and may be revised. So, what was the hurry? There have been various suggestions on how to measure poverty - among them is why not take the minimum wage as the criteria? easily identifiable and transparent indicators of inclusion and exclusion. I think these would have more credibility.

Q. Joke is not the word. The politicians have forgotten the ground realities and are day dreaming in a fantasy world. how else can they talk about a meal for Rs 5 or even Rs 12? Asked by: AKS

A. AKS, have answered this. No one is going to forget these statements in a hurry - regardless of whether they belong to weaker sections or middle classes.

Q. With the declared parameters, of planning commission, how does it get fit into Budget allocation? Asked by: sundar1950in

A. Sundar, if as per the planning commission there is a steep reduction in poverty level, it would definitely increase the pressure to reduce allocation in social welfare schemes. And in tough times, it could also erode the fragile safety net of the poor.

Q. Senior leaders Digvijay and Kapil Sibal questioning the Planning commission, for the figures, forgetting the noted economist PM is the leader of them. Do they know that PM is the Chairman of Planning Commission and still hold on to their observations? Asked by: sundar1950in

A. Yes, they do. And yes the Prime Minsiter is chairman of planning commission.Remember these noises were made more than a year back and yet the planning commission went on to release its figures based on the Tendulkar line. Was the government desperate to show that 137 million have risen above poverty?

Q. As per the ruling class, if the poverty is less than 23 percent, why is it that the govt and Congress party trying to bring the Food Security bill? That translates as the FSB is only for 23 percent (as per Planning board statistics), leaving the rest of the 67 percent in limbo. Is there a major scam lurking behind the FSB? Asked by: EM

A. This just shows that the government itself does not believe it's own figure of just 22 percent below the poverty line! Please remember that there is widespread deprivation and hunger in our country. 42 percent of children below the age of five are malnourished. And we are going through a slowdown coupled with inflation. For millions of families the value of a BPL card or subsidised food grain can never be overestimated. The question can be over implementation of the food security bill.

Q. The statements by the minister and members of the Congress party is highly irresponsible and smacks of ignorance. The same govt has been piling misery upon the citizens of this country with constant increases in fuel (both LPG and diesel)prices. Farmers have to purchase fertilizers at higher prices, which has increased the cost of their food products. This has also factored in turn, to the increase in the cost of food supplies, along with transportation cost (not to mention the profits of the middlemen). Then how can they claim that food can be procured for Re.1 or Rs.5 or Rs.12? Why is it that the govt and Congress party trying to fool the public or citizens of this country? Asked by: EM

A. They cannot fool the aam aadmi. At every gathering in which i have been there, people are talking about this.

Q. Statistics based on Planning Board says only 23 percent is below poverty line. The middle class is trying their best to adjust their monthly income to the increase in expenditure due to the high prices of food supplies and LPG. Is this fair to ignore the majority and keep piling on sops for the minority, with a dole of Food Security? Asked by: EM

A. It is a question of prioritising resources which are always limited- resources are allocated to those who the most deprived. Yes, the rise in prices has made life difficult for middle classes but remember, it is the middle classes that have benefited most from this "growth".

Q. This may not be a Joke at all in TN where Rice is absolutely free to card holders in PDS. AMMA canteens are serving Idly at One rupee and sambar and Dahi bath at Rs 3 each. The subsidy portion has been taken care by Tendulkar or not? Asked by: sundar1950in

A. We are talking of the norm and not the exceptions.

Q. The best Cartoon on this joke was, that the figure was arrived a la Duckworth/Lewis formula? What is the advantage for Government in Cheating itself on this parameter? These figures are essentially for planning to alleviate poverty? Is the poverty going to be alleviated figuratively? Asked by: sundar1950in

A. There has been a reduction in poverty by whichever estimate you use to measure it. There have been too many committees and no consensus over the methodology on what constitutes a minimum level of living.

first published:July 29, 2013, 17:21 IST
last updated:July 29, 2013, 17:21 IST