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editricon ECONOMISTS NEED TO GO TO SCHOOL

 
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MANAGING DIRECTOR
See interview of Venkateswaran  Chittoor Venkatsubramanian
Last few months have been turbulent for our Planning commission. Its celebrated Deputy Chairman Dr.Montek Singh Ahuluwalia, an economist of repute and a close buddy of our Prime Minister who infact wanted him his Finance Minister was in the news for an affidavit filed in Supreme Court which stated that a person with percapita daily expenditure budget of Rs.32/ in urban areas and Rs.28/ in rural areas is considered to be above Poverty line. This the affidavit stated is based on the Suresh Tendulkar Committe report on BPL. There was widespread criticism of this figure which was insufficient to buy a full lunch for an adult in the present inflationary economy. The earlier estimates of povery were based on calorific intake required to be above subsistence level. After the outcry the Commisison withdrew its affidavit with the Government stating that they will work out povertylines once again based on caste, social and other comparable data. At that time. Swaminathan Anklesaria Aiyer wrote how hyporcritical the criticism was given that the figure works out to a monthly spend of Rs. 4000/ for a family of 2 adults and 2 children which is a decent figure in today's prices. I also felt that this argument holds water as it is quite possible for a family of 2 adults and 2 children to infact live a decent living with this figure.

Before the dust could settle down the Planning commission came out with revised figures of poverty this time it was brought down to Rs.26 for rural areas and 28 for urban areas percapita spend to determine poverty. all parties cried foul while Dr.Ahuluwalia maintained the figures were just and -hold your  breathe, povery has come down by about 10% which is more pronounced in the past decade. Union Minister the highly educated and sensible Jairam Ramesh attributed vested interests to the criticism of the figures and claims of poverty reduction. Mulayam singh , Sushma Swaraj tore in to the claims and the left parties wanted the planning commmision disbanded and Dr.Ahluwalia sacked.

This time I re did my arithmatic. Yes,. it is probably true in this age of subsidised food grains available through corrupt PDS, it may be possible for a family which has a BPL card to buy rations and provisions for monthto mange the household  with the figures. But it is also true that millions why billions of Indians are   without any own houses and need to pay rentals for their residence. They need to have money to commute through Public transport from their dwelling to their places of work. The subsidised Public Transport have now been targeted and many a state government have revised the fares beyond the reach of common man. One could understand the fury of Mamta Banerjee when Dinesh Trivedi sought to revise rail fares for the ordinary classes. Am Admi also need to pay for the education of his children even if in Government schools where it may cost anywhere between Rs.100 to 200 per month on an average. Who will pay for medicines if he or his family members fall sick with Public health care system rotten in this country? One could have read about massive siphoning of money from NRHM in Uttar Pradesh. clothing is another area which needs to be looked in to. Now the Government think tank has proposed user charges for basic civic amenities like water.

If one provides for all these basic necessities of life, the figure falls well below the mark. And when statistics say that we have large amount of malnourished and undernourished children, when thousands sleep of pavements, when people die of cold and heatwaves regularly and when people die of starvation in the midst of bountiful crop, the planning commisson and its members need to be ordered to go school to learn elementary arithmatic before formulating policies for our poor brethern. Let them educate themselves   Better still we shall ask each member to show how to lead a simple life with this money in any place of their choice. Charity they said begins at home. Let them demonstrate before protesting.

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