HEALTH MINISTRY'S AFFIDAVIT ON 'POOR'

WHO IS POOR?-A Shocking statistics The sharp erosion in the value of money and the spiraling prices of essential items may have played havoc with people's lives making it difficult for them to maintain their living standards, but the government is stubbornly sticking to its definition of who is `poor'. In an astounding position before the Supreme Court the government has held that one has to earn only Rs 455 a month in urban areas and Rs 328 in rural areas to escape the poor tag. "At present, on 1999-2000 prices, the poverty line at all India level is Rs 327.56 and Rs 454.11 for rural and urban people per capita per month respectively," said the health and family welfare ministry in a recent affidavit which stood out for the ridiculously low figures. In the government's scheme, the poverty line drawn on the basis of monthly income varies widely from state to state and from urban areas to rural areas. To classify as poor in the four metros -- Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai -- the person's monthly income has to be less than Rs 506, Rs 540, Rs 410 and 475, respectively. Which means, if your daily earnings cross Rs 17 in Delhi, Rs 18 in Mumbai Rs 14 in Kolkata and Rs 16 in Chennai, you are among those fortunate not to be counted by the government as poor. The health ministry's affidavit was in response to a petition filed by an NGO `Azadi Bachao Andolan', which had accused the government of being utterly non-serious towards alleviating poverty and its failure to control the rapidly increasing population. Despite using these ridiculously low monthly incomes to classify a person as poor, the government has identified a huge chunk -- over 26 crore -- as poor because they do not even earn these paltry sums. Orissa and Bihar account for more than one-fifth of the total poor in India. In Orissa, where to be counted as poor one has to earn less than Rs 474 per month in urban areas and Rs 324 in rural areas, a whopping 47.15% of the population is classified as poor. In Bihar, where corresponding monthly income figures are Rs 380 and Rs 333, as much as 42.6% of the population lives below the poverty line. As per the health ministry's affidavit, Jammu and Kashmir is least afflicted by poverty. The northernmost state, where urban and rural poverty lines are demarcated by a monthly income figure of Rs 421 and Rs 368, only 3.48% of its population is classified as poor. After narrating several steps to counter poverty in rural areas, the affidavit stated, "Reduction and alleviation of urban poverty, if not its complete eradication, has long been one of the objectives of planning. There have been encouraging trends in the reduction of urban poverty in both percentage and numeric terms though the urban poor still face age-old problems at the ground level." Source-Times Of India-14-11-2008

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