Have you ever bore witness to a politician’s speech and no matter the situation, the image and scenario they present standing on the podium gives the feeling that everything that went on under their leadership was remarkable and no one else could have achieved it?!
It’s the same old game of vote bank politics: even though things in reality may have changed subtly, they are presented in a manner as if something very remarkable has been achieved so as to play for votes in an upcoming election. It's a political practice as old as the politcial game itself.
If you were anywhere near a newpaper or media outlet recently, you may have come across recent figures showing India's poverty line dropping to a record 22 percent. There was a huge debate in Indian as well as international media about the validity of the figures and how much the quality of life for the poor has changed in recent years.
The Indian poverty line is based on a threshold income dependant on local socio-economic needs. The methodology used to implement this poverty line limit is through the consumer expenditure survey from data obtained by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO).
Any person whose expenditure is below the limit falls into the poor household category. Initially the calculation used to be based upon the calorie intake required for an individual, if a person didn’t have the means to provide himself and his family with the required calories that directly signified that he was to be classified in the poverty limit and could gain access to and be eligible for various government subsidies and welfare schemes.
The data used to determine the current poverty level falling to 22 percent is based on methodology recommended in 2005 by a panel of experts headed by economist Suresh Tendulkar. The committee the poverty in terms of consumption or by an individual where the findings were calculated and taking food, education, health, electricity and transport into consideration. The report categorised people from rural and urban areas into the two different price brackets, where people from rural areas earning less than 27 rupees/day and people living in urban areas and earning less than 33 rupees/day were to be considered in the below poverty category and hereby the price limit was marked as the poverty line.
All this despite living costs in India increasing steadily and the cost of food getting unimaginably expensive making it next to impossible to make a living out of the price figure mentioned in the poverty line index. Therefore this figure has been since criticised by the opposition party, media as well as various non governmental organisations. The line being drawn low means less people being able to make use of the government’s existing benefits but on the other hand the government is able to get the perfect percentage figures for their presentation on reduction of poverty in India.
The Wall street Journal, in its article, “Is India Fudging Its Poverty Numbers?” stated, “Official poverty lines are not intended to demarcate the dividing line between poverty and affluence or a bad life and a good life. They’re the dividing line between absolutely horrible poverty and the next level of poverty, which extremely unpleasant as it still may be, marks a tiny step up.”
In actuality, lowering the bar does not mean anything unless the living conditions of the poor are made better, liveable and that they have an easy availability of balanced intake of nutrients within their financial reach. A government concerned about its citizens should stop boosting the figures but look into the reality, the cost of living and then see if it has something about which it can boast.
Author: Ajay Pal Singh Chabba/ RESET editorial
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