On the list of this government’s most serious lapses in policymaking, this one should rank somewhere near the top. The below poverty line census, due to its methodology approved on Thursday, will identify more poor households than officially estimated. But, because the government has also decided that the official estimates will serve as a ceiling, the additional poor families will not benefit from poverty alleviation schemes.
In other words, the government will pick and choose who is to be officially poor and who isn’t.
India has always had trouble with the ways and means of defining poverty and identifying the poor. But Thursday’s decision says something about the government’s confusion over the political handling of poverty. It is almost as if the aam aadmi’s government was telling some of its votaries: “You may be poor, but you ain’t poor enough.”