New Delhi : Deciding the poverty line in terms of income in rupees per day has always been a controversial issue even among economists. In the arena of politics, the exercise becomes all the more acrimonious.
On Monday, Congress chief spokesperson Ajay Maken found fault with the Gujarat government advertisements that set the poverty line benchmark at Rs 324 per month — a Rs 10.80 daily consumption expenditure — in rural areas and Rs.501 in urban areas. In a sharp criticism of the Gujarat chief minister, Maken told reporters, “Rs 10.8 definition of poverty in Gujarat is a joke. Mr Modi made fun of the central criterion of Rs. 32 a day. If that is a joke, Mr Modi, then what is this?” He also demanded that Modi should apologize for setting such poverty line standards.
The issue erupted as Modi has been hitting out at the central government for declaring last year that anyone who earns more than Rs. 32 a day would not be considered poor.
The BJP was quick to hit back at Maken and say that the Gujarat government figures are based on the guidelines issued by the central government in 2004.
Also, as BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman pointed out, ‘‘these figures have not been revised despite several reminders to the Centre sent by the Gujarat government.”
Sitharaman also ridiculed the Congress for targeting the Gujarat government without doing minimum homework to check how these poverty criteria figures originated. Asserting that these criteria were not fixed by the Gujarat government but forced by the Planning Commission, she pointed out that the Centre provides food grains for only 21 lakh families under this yardstick whereas the Gujarat government subsidises 11 lakh more families from its own sources.
She also said that Modi has been pressing the Planning Commission for the last ten years to revise the criteria which does not do justice to all BPL families, but all his requests have gone unheeded.
“The sense of outrage with which the Congress is criticising the Gujarat CM is without realisation that the flak is really on them,” Nirmala said, adding that the Gujarat government was releasing dates on which reminders were sent to the Centre to review the BPL criteria.