Not starving any longer
The budget session of the parliament continues to throw up new highlights. Here is a report from Daily Bhaskar:
Planning Commission on Monday further reduced poverty line to Rs 28.65 per capita daily consumption in cities and Rs 22.42 in rural areas, scaling down India’s poverty ratio to 29.8 per cent in 2009-10, the estimates which are likely to raise the hackles of civil society.
An individual above a monthly consumption of Rs 859.6 in urban and Rs 672.8 in rural areas is not considered poor, as per the controversial formula.
Based on these inventive definitions, the number of starving people in India is only about a third of the population, reports DNA:
Has poverty declined during UPA’s regime? In what may seem a pat on the central government’s back, a set of figures released by the planning commission on Monday claimed that number of poor has come down by around 7.3% to 29.8% of the nearly 1.2 billion population from 2004-05 to 2009-10.
The plan panel data states poverty in rural areas declined at a faster pace than in urban areas between 2004-05 and 2009-10. But report was silent on the question that if the reason behind this was UPA’s flagship MNREGA scheme.
As against 40.72 crore in 2004-05, the total number of poor in the country has been estimated at 34.47 crore in 2009-10.
Rs. 22 a day is nothing, but one third of our population of over one billion do not even earn that! Even people earning ten times as much cannot benefit from the government’s efforts to make medicines “cheaper”, as Reuters reports:
Last Monday, India granted its first ever compulsory license, allowing Natco Pharma to manufacture and sell Nexavar, a liver and kidney cancer drug, inside the country. It effectively ends Bayer’s exclusive rights to the drug in India.
Campaigners for cheaper access to drugs hailed the decision, which was taken after the country’s patent office said Bayer’s Nexavar was not “reasonably affordably priced”.
But the ruling has reignited fears amongst global drugmakers like Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis. They see huge potential in rapidly growing economies such as India but are wary of intellectual property protection.
Natco will retail Nexavar at 8,800 rupees ($180) for a monthly dose, a fraction of the 280,000 rupees ($5,600) Bayer’s version cost.
An article in the Hindu had pointed out a very important distinction:
The official poverty lines do not measure poverty any more; they measure destitution.
The outcry against calling these destitution lines ‘poverty lines,’ is justified; for true poverty lines are much higher than these, and show 75 per cent of all persons in India to be poor. Per head energy and protein intake has been falling for the last two decades as the majority of the population is unable to afford enough food.
The point is well made. Is there a class between poor and middle class? Not by any normal definition. Then would earning a little more than the planning commission’s figure, say Rs. 1000 a month, be enough to put someone into the middle class?
Absurd, isn’t it? The Parsi Punchayet does a much better job of defining poverty, because a definition of poverty is also automatically a definition of the middle class.