Indian opposition politicians on Tuesday accused the government of hiding dire poverty levels after it declared that any villager who spent at least 22 rupees (44 cents) a day was not poor.
Figures released by the Planning Commission on Monday showed a substantial drop in the country’s poverty figures, but the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) attacked the new estimates.
“I don’t know which line they are drawing. Whether it is the starvation line or the poverty line,” S.S. Ahluwalia, who is deputy leader of the BJP in the upper house of parliament, told reporters.
“It is beyond the imagination of the prime minister and the Planning Commission to know how a person can survive on such a low income,” he said.
The commission’s estimates differ from state to state depending on the cost of living, but average out at a 22-rupee daily spending threshold for villagers and a 28-rupee threshold in cities.
The data is used to determine access to welfare benefits for India’s 1.2 billion population. Anyone living below the poverty line is entitled to subsidised food and cooking fuel distributed through state-owned stores.
Figures from the Planning Commission, an influential government body that formulates national five-year economic plans, this week suggested overall poverty levels fell from 37.2 percent in 2004-05 to 29.8 percent in 2009-10.
The statistics mean about 360 million Indians now live in poverty.
Although several states saw their poverty ratios plummet by more than ten percentage points, a number of states in India’s remote northeast experienced a rise in the proportion of poor.