NEW DELHI: What are the things you can get for 32 bucks? Let me see: you can have a single piece of shawarma, (or) you can have a half litre of coke, or maybe you would like a couple of gulab jamuns? Yeah, one of any of these things. You certainly can’t have a cup of Baskins & Robbins ice cream, it costs twice that much. And forget about eating at any restaurant, there is nothing, not even dal that costs less than 30 bucks.
But the government says you can have three meals on it. Yes, you can get 10 chapatis for 30 bucks, but nothing to go with it. So basically if you can have 10 chapatis a day (3 in the morning, 3 in the afternoon, and four at night, dipped in the salty water of river Yamuna presumably because water costs 15 bucks a bottle, and the government does not supply it free to anyone, not enough anyway.
If you earn 32 bucks a day, you are not poor, if you can have water dipped chappatis day after day, even if you have nothing left for anything else, like clothing, rent, travelling, medicine etc, you are not poor. So said the government, and naturally enough there were protests. After all, it is one thing to be poor, it is another to have poverty made fun of.
The government, realizing it has got its knickers in a twist in now trying to find a way out. Montek Singh Ahluwalia is to clarify what exactly the government meant. To that end he has met the PM. And the news conference is for Monday.
“Sources said Ahluwalia, who was on a visit abroad, met the prime minister for the first time since the controversy erupted after an affidavit filed by the panel in Supreme Court last month.
The affidavit said that poverty line for urban and rural areas could be provisionally placed at Rs.965 per capita per month (about Rs.32 per day) for urban areas and Rs.781 per capita per month (about Rs.26 per day) for rural areas.”
Many people have been outraged over the reports, including those in government. IANS reports:
“Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi is also learnt to have expressed his concern over the poverty line cut offs.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni admitted Saturday that there was concern among people on the issue.
She said the figures could undergo a change. “There is a certain disquiet in the civil society and some sections. They believe the statistics are perhaps somewhat removed from reality,” she said.
Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh had sent a missive to the panel on the issue.
National Advisory Council members Aruna Roy and N.C. Saxena also expressed reservations over the poverty line cut offs.
Saxena said that only dogs and animals can live at Rs.32 a day and said that people spending that kind of amount were poorest of the poor.”
Ahluwalia though is known to have said that the affidavit was “factually correct” and it was not a new policy decision but simply a factual explanation given to the apex court on how poverty lines were calculated based on Suresh Tendulkar report.