Uproar in LS over poverty data
IANS NEW DELHI OPPOSITION parties joined hands on Wednesday to target the government over the new definition of poverty - those living on less than Rs 28 per day in urban and Rs 22.50 in rural areas.
In the firing line was Montek Singh Ahluwalia, the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission that has compiled the figures.
Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar allowed a special debate after an hour-long adjournment when opposition members created a ruckus demanding that the government reject the Planning Commission’s “shocking” definition and come up with a new poverty line.The MPs were venting their ire over the Planning Commission data, released on Monday, claiming poverty had significantly fallen between 2004-05 and 2009- 10.
It said poor were the ones who spend less than Rs 28 per day in urban areas and Rs 22.50 in rural areas. The new poverty line is lower than the earlier Rs 32-per-day mark that had triggered outrage when the government submitted it to the Supreme Court last year.
Janata Dal-United (JD-U) leader Sharad Yadav launched a scathing attack on Ahluwalia without naming him. He called for scrapping of the panel and blamed it for the “flawed data” released on Monday.
“The (deputy) chairman is (living) far away from ground realities. He should be removed. Every time he speaks, things go wrong,” said Sharad Yadav. “Poverty will of course decline when you lower the minimum household income... Tell me, is it possible to live on Rs 28 per day in urban areas and Rs 22.50 in rural areas,” he asked. He said the government was fudging the data to show economic growth.
“What should you do now.
Shoot the poor, give them poison..
if you want to end poverty.” Earlier initiating the debate, BJP leader Sushma Swaraj said it was wrong to target the plan panel because “the real culprit is the government which has accepted the figures”.
“The prime minister is the chairman of the Planning Commission. Why should we target its deputy chairman? “The government is on one hand increasing prices and on the other lowering the poverty indicating figures,” she said.
Addressing Congress president Sonia Gandhi, chairperson of the ruling UPA, she asked the government to “come out with new norms that define poverty in this country realistically”.
“You reject the figures.
Soniaji has the clout to do that.” Sushma Swaraj asked: “Is it possible to live, educate kids and feed your family with Rs 22.50 a day in rural areas and Rs 28 in urban areas? I urge you to join the house in asking the government to reject the figures.” Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav also lambasted the government.
He also called for sacking of Ahluwalia saying “people living in air-conditioned rooms” have no knowledge of poor in India. The reality, he said, was “65 percent of the Indians are living below poverty line without electricity and potable water. (The) prime minister is responsible as he is the chairman of the commission. He should remove the deputy chairman from the post,” Mulayam Singh told reporters later outside the house.
Congress’s Arun Kumar, the only MP from the ruling bench to speak during the debate, claimed that opposition members were misleading parliament. He said the figures were per capita and not for one family. The per family figures are Rs 4,824 a month for the urban areas and Rs 3,905 for rural areas. The debate was allowed after BJP MPs led the disruption of the crucial question hour after the house met at 11 am.
Meira Kumar adjourned the house till 12 noon.Stating there should be no controversy over poverty estimates, the Congress later said the number of poor people has come down in the country due to the various welfare schemes being run by the United Progressive Alliance government.
Blaming the opposition for playing politics over poverty, Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi told reporters: “There should be no controversy over poverty estimates. It’s sad that the opposition is playing politics..
in fact, they should be happy that poverty has come down as various public schemes