And You Thought India Is Developing… Gotcha Baby!

Posted on June 2, 2011 in Society

By Srishti Chauhan:

It’s been years since you have been hearing the contradictory data published by United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the Indian statistics concerning the percentage of people below poverty line. While the international standards have long ago been changed from $1 per person per day, the Indian standards haven’t yet even reached that bar. If you thought that the reduced numbers of the Below Poverty Line (BPL) can be attributed to improved income and living conditions then think again. The government is in to fool you again!

Earlier the Planning Commission had stipulated a need for 2,100 Kilocalories per person per day in the cities and 2,400 Kcal per person per day in the rural areas owing to the more strenuous work that is generally done by them.

Recently, a new revision has taken place. Now the requirements have reduced. A person needs only 1,800 Kcal per day. When inquired about regarding the reason the officials have said that the FAO has changed the standards- conveniently choosing not to mention that these are the calorie intake requirements of a person in the cities living a sedentary lifestyle and has little physical labor to do.

And bam!! The statistics show an improvement.

According to the National Institute for Nutrition, the average calorie intake of a person should be in the range of 2320-3490 Kcal per person per day. Moreover, keep in mind that all these statistics are solely concentrating on the calorie requirement. The requirement for vitamins, minerals and other trace elements like zinc which are vital for the proper functioning of the body are completely ignored. So, the new parameter falls short in more than one place.

The estimation of poverty in India is not only in-comprehensive but also manipulated to display the desired results. If a person earns a particular sum per month then he is above poverty line. What about those who are the sole earners in a family of 6? Is that income divided by 6 also sufficient to take care of the health, nutrition, education and other aspects?

Moreover, the lack of indexation of these brackets with the growing level of inflation if conveniently ignored. It would not take a genius to figure out that if due to inflation my salary rises from Rs.50 per day to Rs. 60 per day then I’m definitely not any richer. However, the tax brackets and the poverty line brackets may just make me richer by taking into account only the “money” income I earn while the “real” income may actually have fallen.

The newest scheme of the government- the BPL card is another fiasco. The country-laden with red tapism and unending corruption– is not allowing the marginalized groups to take advantage of the scheme. The government officials clearly state that they require a particular “fee” (a more respectable name for under-the-table-transactions) before they shall proceed in the process of making a BPL card.

In most areas a standard fee of Rs. 5000 per BPL card is doing the rounds. A person who is willing and able to pay Rs. 5000 would surely not be below the poverty line, would he? The result of this is that those who clearly are above the poverty line are enjoying the benefits of the scheme while those who truly need it are left behind- just as poor… only much worse!

The schemes are many while the results are few. The schemes are falling flat as the corruption, manipulation of statistics and short-sightedness of the policy makers are emerging stronger. The first step to solving a problem is acknowledging it. Manipulation of statistics to gain political mileage or to promote one’s regime in the government as being efficient is going to go in just the opposite way.