Perpetuating Poverty

I get confused every time I try to understand the intention of the politicians regarding poverty and its alleviation. BPL (Below Poverty Line) has become a pretty popular word. It categorizes the families that are really poor. I don’t know if there is any consensus on the definition of BPL. But going by the media reports, there is total disagreement between the states and the centre on the number, particularly those states that are having government of a party other than the one at the centre.

I was under an impression that with impressive GDP in last five years, India has reduced its poverty to about 21%. But as reported, Planning Commission had 28% of population under BPL, and a government panel chaired by Supreme Court-appointed food commissioner N C Saxena has recently recommended that 50% of India’s population be given below-poverty-line cards.

Surprisingly the states have prepared their own data of BPL beneficiaries. That, in most cases, is pretty higher than the planning commission figures. Even at the centre there is difference in opinion between Planning Commission and the rural development ministry. With the increasing allocation for the BPL schemes, the battle will get intense because of vested interest. Interestingly, as against 4.02 crore BPL households estimated by the Centre across the country, there are about 8.13 crore BPL card holders. It means about 400 million Indians are living in poverty. However, none talk about the smarter or stricter monitoring so that the leakages get plugged and the real beneficiaries get their dues.

I doubt the figures of BPL for my own reason. We have two maid servants to help us at home. A washer man visits us daily. A young man delivers milk. And many other young men provide some or the other household services. None should be in BPL based on their earnings. But I find all of them are in BPL for availing the benefits provided by the government. Should not the government with so many intelligent people available to help them in find a right nomenclature and ways that motivate the people to take pride in getting out of BPL?

Planning Commission:
Average per capita spending of below Rs 356/month in rural areas & Rs 539 in urban areas

Saxena Panel: Average per capita spending of below Rs 1,000/month in urban areas & Rs 700 in rural India

According to another definition, those capable of spending below Rs 20 a day are to be included in BPL. And as per National Sample survey, 60.5% of the population was capable of spending only Rs 20 a day. It sounds something like UN figures of the people earning below 1 or 1.5 US dollar a day.

Why should the state take pride in calling itself as the poorest one? Before asking for the assistance from the centre, why should not it be mandatory for the state to come out with its own plan to improve the per capita GDP or reduce the poverty of its people? Is being called poor something to take pride?

Poverty is the dirtiest situation for a family that takes away the human dignity. I am certain that with education and exposure the youth from the BPL families will object to get branded that way. Why should not the government spend on ways and means to create conditions for more useful and high earning engagements and employment of its people? I don’t think these doles, be it Food Security Act or NREGA can achieve the goal to end poverty. It may keep family away from starvation. Many on-site reports have revealed its limitations and misuse. It may win the election for some more time but very soon the people are going to rebel against its managers. The sooner they do, the better it will be for the nation.

I wonder how the finance minister would live up to his promise of reducing the poverty by half by 2014 that he made in his budget 2009. Will the government and its economist Prime minister provide an agreed definition of BPL and encourage and empower the people in the list to come out of it. Why don’t they realize Tulsidas, nahin daridra sum dukh jag mahiनहिं दरिद्र सम दुःख जग माहीं ? Poverty must not be perpetuated as reservation in the interest of politicians, and middlemen making their living and prosperity out of it.

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