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Opponents dismiss Indian government claims on poverty

Ministers say numbers are falling, critics say figures are wrong

Swati Deb, New Delhi
India

July 26, 2013

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Government claims that poverty levels in India have dropped dramatically have been dismissed as a fabrication by opposition parties, who question the methods the government has used to justify those claims.

The federal planning commission earlier this week said that 21.9 percent of Indians lived below the poverty line in 2011-2012, down from 37.2 percent in 2004-2005.

The national poverty line was estimated at 816 rupees (US$ 14) per capita per month in villages and 1,000 rupees per capita per month in cities.

The commission concluded that people in urban areas who could not afford to spend more than 33 rupees (US 56 cents) a day and those in rural areas who could not afford to spend more than 27 rupees lived below the poverty line.

But Marxist leader Brinda Karat told ucannews.com today that the government's figures actually relate to India's starvation level. 

“It is dubious methodology. The government wants to show us that there is a magic wand that has removed poverty,” said Karat.

Disagreements flared after a senior figure from the ruling Congress Party claimed that a meal can be purchased in India for the sum of five rupees.

Saying you can get a meal at such low cost in an Indian city is "laughable and has to be dismissed forthwith," said K. Kabra from Delhi’s Institute of Social Science. "You cannot get a cup of tea for five rupees in Delhi," 

The opposition parties called the government claims an insult to poor people, already reeling under severe price hikes on necessary food items.

"Economic realities are different given the rising cost of food and accommodation. The spending level quoted is just impossible to make even the bare minimum purchases of food," Hiranmoy Roy from the University of Petroleum and Energy Studies told ucannews.com.

BJP lawmaker M.M. Joshi told ucanews.com that the government defines poverty as per its whims and fancy, increasing or decreasing the numbers of poor people as and when it wants. “These statistics are not acceptable and are a cruel joke on the people," he said.

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