Plan panel estimate on BPL families in 10 days: Montek

Plan panel estimate on BPL families in 10 days: Montek

New Delhi: The Planning Commission is expected to submit its estimate on the number of below the poverty line (BPL) families within 10 days to the government, which will help it finetune the food security bill.

“We will have it within 10 days," Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia told PTI.

He added that the Commission is examining the Tendulkar committee report, which had projected the number of BPL families at about 8 crore, up from the Plan panel’s earlier estimate of 6.5 crore.

The number of BPL households, Ahluwalia added, could be somewhere between 7.5 crore and 8 crore which would be in line with the Tendulkar report.

An empowered group of ministers (EGoM) has asked the Commission to provide exact definition of BPL families who would be entitled to a specified quantity of rice or wheat every month, under the proposed food security Bill.

The EGoM has cleared the Bill on March 18 but the same was sent back to it amid speculation that UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi wanted some key changes in the draft.

These included raising the quantity of highly subsidised rice or wheat to 35 kg per month for each BPL family, from 25 kg proposed in the draft Bill, and widening the scope of the beneficiaries to women, children and other sections of the society who don’t figure in the official BPL list.

Ahluwalia said, however, that the BPL household numbers would be nowhere near 11 crore or so that have been suggested by some states. He said various other estimates on the BPL household numbers are completely arbitrary and do not adopt any methodology. “My own view is that the Tendulkar report has produced a workable outcome."

Ahluwalia said if the Tendulkar line is accepted by the government, after the Commission sends in its views, the number will go up to “may be 7.5 to 8 crore. That depends on how you calibrate."

The Plan panel head admitted that there would be definitely an increase in the number of BPL families. He, however, said bringing in more households under the BPL list will not mean that the poverty in the country has increased. “It’s not that poverty has increased... He (Tendulkar) has changed the poverty line so that more people are below the poverty line."

In fact, Ahluwalia said trends indicate that the poverty in the country is going down.