The Planning Commission’s act of withdrawing its take on the affidavit filed by it in the Supreme Court, which draws the poverty line at Rs 26 a day or less for a villager and Rs 32 in a town, is beguiling. Then what is the relevance of such affidavit? Wasn’t the Planning Commission aware, at the time of formulating the definition of poverty that this type of assessment of the poor is nothing but a mockery of the destitute and also gauging of the poverty line will draw flak? It can be inferred that the Planning Commission is more apt at playing number games and far off from the reality of the common people, but the government is equally responsible for it. If not, then why did not the Centre disassociate itself from the affidavit? It would have been more wise for the government to have gauged the cruelty of the number fixed for marking the poverty line when it showed a green flag to the Commission’s affidavit. Despite the criticisms pouring in from all corners, Planning Commission Deputy Chairman, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, stuck to his calculations and defended the poverty line drawn by the Commission citing that it wanted to underestimate the number of poor. If it did not nurture any such intention, why did the Commission hold up Suresh Tendulkar committee report? Isn’t it strange that despite knowing the fact that the Committee’s report was based on the poverty line drawn in the 1970s, the Commission went ahead to give acknowledgment to the outdated report.

The Planning Commission and the government acceding to the folly committed in the affidavit cannot be made a reason to defend, rather it is to be decided by the both to rectify the mistake. The poverty line should not only be determined on practical grounds but the inflation level in the recent years and its impact on the common people should also be taken into account. Although the Planning Commission has given the assurance of formulating new criteria for defining poverty and placing it before the Apex Court, no one knows how long will they take to come up with the new definition, whether the new scale designed to measure poverty line will be able to provide relief to the poor? It has been said that the new affidavit will also include caste as a criteria and as it is known that caste census, already being prepared, will be ready by next year. However, the poor population will have to wait for sometime before any aid comes to their rescue. Isn’t it ironical whether a seven-year old government has yet to decide who is poor and who isn’t? In this context, it is to be noted that the discussion about Food Safety Bill is still hanging in balance. If the Centre claims to be committed towards the betterment of the poor, why does it fail to portray commitment through its policies? The overall poor population is a mere vote-bank for the ruling government. Mentioning schemes such as MNREGA and Indira Awas Yojna in terms of poverty alleviation will not help the Centre to better off its cause because none of these can make the poor to stand on their own feet. If our policy-makers consider poverty as a curse, then they should know that this sole benefit to the poor will not be sufficient to dispel their plight.