Breft of realism and nationalist moorings the Planning Commission has become a shame on India.
The UPA crafted economic policy has pushed Indians into deeper pits of poverty. In an abominable display of callousness, the Planning Commission field an affidavit in the Supreme Court this week, stating that if a family of five had a daily income of Rs 32 in cities and Rs 26 in the rural areas, they would not be considered poor. Even as the nation was gasping in shock with this, the government went about explaining how it arrived at this ridiculous figure, dividing the 32 rupees into micro calculations of expenditure on dal, rice, atta, oil and allowing even 54 paise on beauty products.
This is the second affidavit of ‘revised‘ estimates by the Planning Commission after the Supreme Court asked the commission to rework the poverty definition it submitted earlier based on 2004-05 prices to conform to 2011 prices (In the first affidavit the cut-off was Rs 22 for cities and Rs 15 for rural areas).
After two days of barrage of political and social criticism and condemnations, the government said the affidavit is not its final position on poverty line. Whatever it means!
The whole exercise was undertaken to identify Below Poverty Line (BPL) families. And the government was tying itself into knots with calculations, aimed at artificially lowering the numbers. It must be remembered that when it came to the food security bill, authored by the discredited NAC, the government had said that seventy percent of the population would be covered under it, admitting that those many Indians were living on the fringe of existence.
After twenty years of economic liberalisation, more number of Indians are now poorer, with a steep increase in the count of multi-millionaires and billionaires from India. It is a cliche to say that the gap has widened. The fact is the government policies have resulted in the rich enjoying the fruits of labour of the poor and the weak. It is now widely accepted that subsidy cannot solve the problem of hunger. Politics in India has created a class of privileged “super class” people at the expense of the tax-payer.
Facts support this argument. In the last few months the Members of Parliament and assemblies raised 100 per cent their incomes and privileges. The MPs get life-long pension and free medical facilities even if they are members for only six months. Members of the Delhi assembly last month gifted themselves a hundred per cent increase in salaries and perks. The Delhi government-sponsored move gave each member an allowance of Rs 1000, all 365 days, revising the earlier provision of Rs 500 per day when the assembly was in session. An allowance of Rs 1000 a day, for people’s representatives when Rs 32 is enough for a family of five to live on, according to the Planning Commission! Some loot that is.
Now just consider the other side of the disc. The recent disclosures of wealth by ministers in the union cabinet, courtesy Anna effect, reveal the phenomenal growth in the riches of men and women at the helm. And these figures are only what they have chosen to reveal. What’s under the carpet and in foreign banks, we will never know.
According to the information available on the site of the PMO, the wealth of nearly all the ministers have grown by leaps and bounds , some more than the others. Praful Patel added an average of half a million rupees daily in about two years, according to an article in The Hindu. (His declared assets in May 2009 was Rs 79 crore. in August 2011 it became Rs 122 crore.) He was Civil Aviation Minister during this period. It is a real irony that during this period, government’s airline shrank and shrank to reach the current BPL level. Patel was promptly promoted to bigger responsibilities of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises, where the minister, still has a lot more to milch.
Minister of State in the Information and Broadcasting Ministry Jagatrakshakan increased his assets by 1,092 per cent, from Rs.5.9 crore in 2009 to Rs 70 crore. These are just a few prime examples. One only has to look at the declared assets of the MPs and ministers at the time of 2009 elections and the information posted on the web site now. The differential is easy to calculate and would act as an eye-opener. And they are all public servants talking day in and day out about their pain for the common voter. Don’t their conscience prick? Living in such splurge, lavish style how can they justify the new definition of BPL? Have our politicians become so insensitive?
One need not discuss the status of wealth of the who’s who in the corporate world and their stunning growth under the globalisation regime. The flight of capital from India and the dwindling record of FDI in India tell that story which are outside the context of discussion here.
The number of people living below BPL according to some estimate is 300 million. Others say that it is about 450 million. The World Bank estimates that 300 million Indians are lving on less than one dollar a day.
Over a decade ago, the United Nations had fixed the global poverty line at income less than one dollar per capita, which would translate to around Rs 50 per capita, implying Rs 250 for a family of five, based on the index of prices a decade ago. In today’s double-digit inflation, even this value has fallen to half.
The Planning Commission’s affidavit, reports say, was filed with the knowledge and approval of the Prime Minister. The extra-constitutional body called National Advisory Council packed with Sonia Gandhi’s handpicked cronies that dictates the government’s actions reacted meekly only to cover up its concurrence. The UPA government, both I and II has been delivering blow after blow on the hapless population. The government is clueless on economy, internal security, terrorism, diplomacy—to put it crisply, governance.
The Planning Commission affidavit is only one of the illustrations of its hopeless incapability.