What is the definition of a Poor in Narendra Modi’s Government? Any person who earns more than 32 Rupees a day in a village and more than Rs 47 in a city is NOT a poor in India . The new limits for poverty come from the Rangarajan Committee Report, which submitted the report to the Government last week. Notably the Poverty benchmarks put forward by the Rangarajan Committee are just Rupees 20 more than what Tendulkar Committee chalked out during the Congress led UPA Government. Any liberal logical person can see the similarity in the two numbers. If a person can’t live with dignity in Rs 16 & Rs Rs 32, he can’t do so in Rs 32 and Rs 47 as well.
The main reasons for adding Rs 20 to the poverty benchmark by Rangarajan Committee can be seen with two perspectives. First, the poverty bench marking is an academic exercise which is undertaken to give the elected Government an idea about the best way it can provide some relief to the hungry and less fortunate in the country. After all, to provide the dignified level of living to all 125 crore Indians, the country needs at least 50 times of today’s GDP. And going by this reasoning, such committees’ recommendation is not that wrong. As humans, a Government can spend only that much which its status and resources allow. Everything else is wishful thinking.
The second reason is more political. Incrementing Rs 20 to the Tendulkar Committee’s poverty benchmark is Modi Government’s attempt to convey the message that poverty has not declined in UPA Government’s regime. The claim it self can’t be disputed, unless the Modi Government takes proactive measures in the upcoming budget to provide some relief to the poor. Merely creating a higher limit for poverty, without earmarking substantial money to feed the poor, is plain rhetoric.
When the Tendulkar Committee report came during the UPA Government, the BJP opposed the poverty benchmark as a big joke on the poor in the country. But that is not a surprise. As any attempts to hike the Railway fares and the freight rates during UPA tenure were opposed by BJP as a Jizya tax on the citizens (BJP Spokespersons, especially Prakash Javadekar has special acumen for such terms). It’s also not surprising as many BJP supporters are already defending Modi Government’s recent price hikes in Petrol, Diesel, non-subsidized LPG cylinders, sugar , Railway Fares, Railway freight charges , as necessary. A BJP supporter puts it clearly : “The Price Hike in UPA Government is Bad. The price hike in BJP Government is good”. When I read this Facebook status update, luring likes from like minded people, I instantly understood that the person behind the update is surely well off and is not dependent on Government for betterment of his/her life. In short, I understood that this person is not poor and can vote for BJP even if it ends all the subsidy meant for poor or if the prices of all the commodities double or become four folds during the BJP regime. This person can differentiate between price hike and inflation, I can’t. For me price hike hurts the person at the lowest , and his voice must be strengthened.
Lets see what the Modi Government’s first budget brings for poor in the country.