New Delhi : The task force headed by NITI Aayog Vice-Chairman Arvind Panagariya to prepare a road map for elimination of poverty has submitted its report to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and suggested setting up a committee to identify people below poverty line (BPL).

The task force, which included Aayog Member Bibek Debroy and secretaries from ministries of rural development, housing and urban poverty alleviation, has also suggested participation from states in defining the BPL population, a senior government official said. “The task force has submitted its report and has suggested that a new committee be set up, which in participation with the states and other stakeholders, should work on defining the BPL population and identify them,” he added.

This task force is an outcome of a decision taken in the first meeting of the governing council of NITI Aayog in February 2015, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and was constituted the next month. It was initially mandated to finalise its report by June 30, 2015.

Another official said the task force was not mandated to work on fixing the poverty line. Its terms of reference included developing a working definition of poverty and coordinating and developing synergy with central ministries and state government task forces.

Its main task was to prepare a road map for elimination of poverty as well as suggest strategies and anti-poverty programmes, the official explained. “Now, it has recommended to the PMO that a new committee be set up, which will work on the definition to identify BPL population, and this will include active participation from the states. The task force is now waiting for a response from the PMO,” he added.

According to the discussion paper on poverty, official measures are based on the Tendulkar poverty line. But the line is not without its share of controversies, with many terming it as being too low. This has prompted the previous government to appoint the Rangarajan Committee, which has recommended higher rural and urban poverty lines.

The paper talks of considering four options for tracking the poor. First, continue with the Tendulkar poverty line. Second, switch to the Rangarajan or other higher rural and urban poverty lines. Third, track progress over time of the bottom 30 per cent of the population and last, track progress along specific components of poverty such as nutrition, housing, drinking water, sanitation, electricity and connectivity. Third and fourth options can complement measurement of poverty using a poverty line, the paper suggested, adding that they cannot be a substitute for it. “Tracking reduction in poverty requires a direct measure. In turn, this requires us to choose between first and second options,” it said further.

According to the paper, the strategy for combating poverty must rest on two legs. First, sustained rapid growth that is also employment intensive. Second, making anti-poverty programmes effective. Making anti-poverty programmes such as the public distribution system (PDS), mid-day meal scheme, MG NREGA and Housing for All more effective represents the second leg of the strategy to eliminate poverty.-PTI

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