What is India’s poverty line?

That is a big political issue in a country which houses maximum number of the world’s poor. There have been experts and their panels – many of them – but still we haven’t been able to define who is poor.

There are truckloads of data in statistical wisdoms and in countless luminary minds – yet we regularly form panels of eminent economist(s) to correct the anomaly in the previous poverty line – only to dismiss it – because the result of burning the midnight oil here is always so absurd that you would dismiss it as soon as you are enlightened with it.

In April 2014, the government unveiled its newest poverty line – Rs. 32 a day in rural areas (Rs. 960 a month) and Rs. 47 a day in urban areas (Rs. 1410 a month). That was, in fact, an improvement over the standards set by the Tendulkar committee – Rs. 27 a day in rural areas (Rs. 810 a month) and Rs. 33 a day in urban areas (Rs. 990 a month).

According to this new poverty line, 29.5% Indians are cursed to live below the poverty line. Now that is around 23 crore Indians.

And that is when this newest Indian poverty line is nowhere to the World Bank benchmark for the poverty threshold – $1.90 – a threshold that the World Bank recalibrated in October 2015 – from the earlier benchmark of $1.25. Now, based on current Dollar to Rupee exchange rate, that comes to around Rs.127 – almost four times of the newest rural poverty line in India and almost three times of the urban one.

To continue..



The Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC) released by the government reaffirms the underlying fact again that, in spite of the political speak, it is a winding road ahead. It is an underlying fact that runs across the strata of the social fabric of the country.

Sample this – of the total 17.91 crore rural households, 5.37 crore have landless owners. They derive their livelihood from ‘manual labour’. So, some 30% of our rural households need immediate attention for a sustained livelihood.

What aggravates the scenario is the prevalent illiteracy in these households.

According to the tables of SECC, 4.21 crore (23.5%) of the households have no literate adults above 25 years, i.e., a male in a stable earning age. And being illiterate means these households are devoid of the most stable earning tool when land is not there, i.e., education.

So, 30% of them, in rural India, they don’t have the primary needs to earn livelihood, i.e., land and education.

The need to support them should be on the primary agenda of any socially-engaging political dispensation – especially in a populous country like India.

The class, that cuts across different states of India, needs genuine support from our policy-makers, going beyond the political rhetoric.

And these two figures are just the beginning.

SECC, that is not final yet, with data from some districts are yet to be uploaded, gives us many worrying indicators that once again reaffirm the scale of human challenge in the world’s largest democracy.

Especially, when we have a legacy of controversy on deciding poverty line – especially when we have, so far, failed to count our poor the way society needs – and not the way economists and statisticians propose.

Especially, when we have rural poverty line of Rs. 972 a month – especially when the Rangarajan Panel report says those earning above Rs. 1407 in urban areas are not poor.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey –


In a huge, huge achievement, in a trademark Montek Singh Ahluwalia style, packaged and presented in the Manmohan Singh style, yesterday, all of a sudden, we the Indians were told by the economy wizard of the nation that his government had lifted almost 15 per cent of the Indians above the poverty line since 2004-05.

Maybe, we, the Indians, could not assess it given our choked mental faculties that keep working 24/7 to ensure how to handle the daily and monthly expenses with regular price rises, of almost everything of use, from routine items, to the means of absolute necessity.

And like Manmohan Singh has always been very comfortable with the manipulative duplicity of statistics, this time too was no different. Only a week ago, the economist in Manmohan Singh had proclaimed: “The percentage of population below the poverty line declined at 0.75 percentage points per year before our government came to office in 2004-05. It has fallen more than 2 percentage points per year between 2004-05 and 2011-12” – and so be it. Isn’t it?

After all, one of our principal lords says it. After all, he represents the luminous class of the politicians with a parasitic lifestyle enjoying luxuries of life on taxpayers’ money while regularly lecturing the taxpayers to practice austerity.

It is indeed largesse on their part when they give us the lowest possible figure (statistics dear!) for ‘our’ Poverty Lines. It is, in some way, a sort of mechanism to take millions of Indians away from the clutches of the ‘defined’ poverty limits.

And so, the Montekonomics version of Manmohan’s proclamation is now out.

It is like – see, you are not poor because we say that you are not in the poverty line list. So, celebrate your day with Rs. 33 a day if you are an urban Indian and Rs. 27 if you are from some rural neighbourhood.

A mouth organ sort of tool of our lords, the Planning Commission of India, headed by the Economy Nobel defying wisdom, that we also know as Motekonomics, of Manmohan Singh’s learned deputy Monetk Singh Ahluwalia, has come up with the miraculous statistical manipulation, yet again, to lessen the miseries of ‘we, the Indians’ – by telling us to believe that hundreds of millions of us have become richer by overnight.

Overnight, because, the intended millions did not know or could not realize their windfall gain (the gain, thanks to the committed acts of Manmohanomics). Probably they would realize it now.

So, the school of Montekonomics, the Planning Commission of India has announced: “The percentage of persons below the Poverty Line in 2011-12 has been estimated as 25.7% in rural areas, 13.7% in urban areas and 21.9% for the country as a whole. The respective ratios for the rural and urban areas were 41.8% and 25.7% and 37.2% for the country as a whole in 2004-05. It was 50.1% in rural areas, 31.8% in urban areas and 45.3% for the country as a whole in 1993-94. In 2011-12, India had 270 million persons below the Tendulkar Poverty Line as compared to 407 million in 2004-05, that is a reduction of 137 million persons over the seven year period.”

And see, how the Montekonomics under the aegis of Manmohanomics has achieved it.

The Planning Commission has calculated, based on the method it uses (the controversial Tendulkar Method), the state-specific and all India urban and rural Poverty Lines for 2011-12.

It is Rs. 816 per month (Rs. 27.20 per day) for rural India and Rs. 1000 per month (Rs. 33.30 per day) for urban India while the same was Rs. 356.30 (Rs. 11.86 per day) for rural India and Rs. 538.60 (Rs. 17.95 per day) for urban India in 2004-05.

Now hundreds of millions of us complain that surviving a day on Rs.33/Rs. 27 a day (Rs. 18/Rs. 12 in 2004-05) is not possible and such ridiculous estimations must be changed. Pity us when we demand so. After all, what else can give us such a comfortable psychological cushion to forget the chronic problems we are in – the poor citizens of a rich country?

And we repeatedly fail to learn the lesson.

Last year too, the country had seen a huge uproar when the Montekonomics had come up with the previous Poverty Lines (Rs. 32 for urban India and Rs. 26 for rural India). Our lords led by Manmohanomics and Montekonomics were so pained that they had to form a committee (like many others in the past) to look into the methodology to calculate the new Poverty Lines. Its head, C. Rangarajan, say it will take one more year to come up with the reworked Poverty Lines.

One more year! How could our caring politicians leave us in peril by denying us the psychological cushion that could tell us to ‘believe’ that we were not poor ‘as we were not on the Poverty Line lists’?

So, they decided to take the pain again. They are so committed to the millions of the poor that they would be ready to face the brunt of the ‘uncalled for’ criticism yet again.

And so, yesterday, we had the Pathbreaking development when millions of us were lifted out of poverty; when Manmohan’s and Montek’s Planning Commission of India came up with the ‘miraculous’ and ‘new’ rural and urban Poverty Lines of Rs. 27 and Rs. 33 a day.

Now that they have told us, what all we need to do is to believe them, as we have been doing in the past ‘by telling us that we are not poor because we do not figure on Poverty Line lists. They have given us back our psychological cushion to fight the poverty.

See, it is so simple. Isn’t it?

See, so caring they are. Aren’t they?

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey –