37.2 per cent of population BPL, 10 crore families to get food security

For purposes of food security, the Planning Commission today finally accepted that the number of people living below the poverty line in India is 37.2 per cent of the total population.

The Plan panel, mandated by the empowered group of ministers chaired by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee to finalise the BPL numbers, will now meet the secretaries of food and expenditure on Tuesday to calculate the cost of providing food security to so many poor.

The 37.2 per cent poverty line (that works out to 40.71 crore for 2004-05) is based on the methodology recommended by the Suresh Tendulkar committee that submitted its report to Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia in December 2009. The report is yet to be officially accepted by the Plan panel.

Besides technical issues of methodology, the report led to a sharp increase in the number of poor in India since 2004-05. But for the limited purposes of food security, the Planning Commission agreed to Tendulkar's recommendations in an internal meeting of all members today.

The number of poor in 2004-05, as per the Plan panel's own estimate released in March 2007, was estimated at 30.17 crore or 27.5 per cent of the total population. Were this number to be accepted as the BPL population, only 6.5 crore families would have got access to food security. But with the Plan panel accepting the Tendulkar report, about 10 crore families will benefit.

"Two different poverty lines — one for food security and the second for all other purposes — for one country sounds odd. But this has been the most expedient solution for the time being," said an official who did not wish to be quoted. In fact, the eGoM was being urged by the Congress leadership to stick to the spirit of the party election promises made in the manifesto.

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