In a rally in Gujarat, Congress president Sonia Gandhi pointed a finger at the Gujarat model citing school drop-out rates, malnutrition and poverty figures off the cuff. The BJP’s PM candidate Narendra Modi retorted back challenging Sonia to a public debate on this. Modi defended the Gujarat model citing CAG’s remarks on the pioneering work done by Gujarat and the official figures of school drop-out rates.
On the poverty line issue, in addition to taking a jibe at Sonia and Rahul’s “poverty tourism”, Modi said that, while the PM formed a committee to discuss the issue of poverty, it hadn’t met for three years. Sonia had mocked the fact that, in Gujarat, those who earned less than Rs 11 were considered poor.
Sonia Gandhi is clearly off the mark on the poverty issue. She is blaming someone else for a problem that remains unsolved by her own government for the past 10 years.
Firstly, the poverty line of Rs 324 for rural areas and Rs 501 for urban areas (which comes to Rs 11 and 17 a day, respectively) has been set by the Central Planning Commission back in 2004. Here is the notification. The UPA, in its 10 years of power, hasn’t been able to change it once.
Sure, it did consider proposals to hike it a few times (two increased estimates for state-specific poverty lines can be accessed here and here), but it hasn’t been able to zero in on an acceptable poverty line. Sure, the Planning Commission has faced strong disagreements on every estimate it proposes. But, for Sonia to blame Modi for the failure of the UPA and Planning Commission to revise it is absurd.
Secondly, earlier this year, Ajay Maken had raised this bogey pursuant to which GoG released a press note in which it clarified Maken’s charges. Given the fact that the UPA was not able to get around revising the methodology of determining poverty, the Modi government voluntarily took the initiative of considering new criteria in addition to the old criteria.
Essentially, the old criteria stipulated by the Central government to count BPL families for which it supplied food grains only included one criterion. By that calculation, the number of BPL families in Gujarat came to around 21 lakh. The Modi government eventually included an additional criterion followed by its Rural Department which added around 11 lakh families in the BPL count.
Therefore, it was really the Modi government which sought a significant increase in the BPL families count.
Thirdly, pursuant to this increase in the count of BPL families, the Modi government asked the UPA to supply more food grains to Gujarat to provide them to 11 lakh additional families. Under our federal governance structure, it is the Central Government which is responsible for supply of food grains to states for the BPL families.
Any guesses who rejected that request? The UPA!
This has been mentioned in a Gujarat HC order in 2008 and judgment in 2010. In a PIL relating to distribution of food grains to BPL families before the Gujarat High Court, the Joint Secretary of Food & Civil Supplies Department of GoG stated in an affidavit under oath that the UPA government rejected GoG’s request for supplying additional food grains to the increased number of BPL families.
Due to the UPA’s rejection, GoG is supplying 35 kg food grains as stipulated by the Supreme Court to the additional BPL families out of its own treasury.
The author has learnt that GoG Minister of Food and Civil Supplies wrote to the UPA’s Minister of Food and Civil Supplies to revise the number of families to be counted as BPL as well as allocate more food grains based on GoG’s calculation. Both times, the UPA minister at the relevant point of time rejected these requests.
In blaming Modi for poverty lines, Sonia Gandhi overlooked the fact that it was her own party’s government which curtailed the list of BPL families eligible for supply of food grains and which refused to provide additional grains for the additional 11 lakh families counted by GoG despite several requests.
In the interests of letting people know the truth, the author supports Modi’s call for a debate with Sonia Gandhi.
PS: First published at http://www.firstbiz.com/data/sonia-check-facts-criticising-modi-poverty-lines-83255.html and written by By Kartikeya Tanna