NEW DELHI, June 24 � Lack of accurate poverty estimates for the North Eastern States have been decried, as Planning Commission still uses the poverty ratio of Assam for estimating poverty in seven other States of the region.
A Report of the Standing Committee on Finance on �Appraisal of BPL Criteria� of the Ministry of Planning� quoting a reply of Member Secretary, Planning Commission, said they have to rely on Assam data because the figures for other States is either not available or the sample size of the NSSO is so small as to be virtually unusable.�
The Committee find such a situation unsatisfactory, where accurate poverty estimates for North-Eastern States are not available at all.� This raises serious questions about the adequacy and veracity of poverty related statistics in the country.� The Committee are astonished that loose estimation is being done without undertaking proper household survey.�
The Committee are given to understand that the Planning Commission uses the poverty ratio of Assam (calculated at 19.73 per cent in 2004-05) for estimating poverty in seven States, including �Sikkim (20.06 per cent), Arunachal Pradesh (17.60 per cent), Meghalaya (18.52 per cent), Mizoram (12.62 per cent), Manipur (17.34 per cent), Nagaland (19.05 per cent) and Tripura (18.94 per cent).�
�It is disconcerting that we still have not yet arrived at a flawless and acceptable poverty estimation formula, which has predictably resulted in large variations of poverty estimates between the Planning Commission and Central Government on the one hand, and the States on the other, which again, may be at variance with the actual incidence of poverty,� the Panel report commented.
The Committee also expressed concerned over the efficacy of the proposed Food Security Bill, when the criteria of identification of the poor remains nebulous.� The Committee urged the Government to thrash out all the issues relating to poverty criteria, estimation, identification and targeting before finalising the Food Security Bill.
Several States have questioned the inconsistency in the criteria determined by the Planning Commission and have termed it absurd, as it seeks to pre-determine state-wise poverty according to� certain normative criteria super imposed on the States.� Such mis-match and contradictions have inevitably resulted in wrong targeting of different welfare schemes and consequent failure to achieve the objectives envisaged, the report observed.
When the Ministry of Rural Development is conducting household survey, there does not appear to be any need on the part of Planning Commission to go for mere estimates, resulting in wastage of resources.� In the opinion of the Committee, such duplication of exercise, added with the issues of divergence in approach and mismatch in determining the incidence of poverty and the poor households are problem areas that need to be addressed, it further said.�
The Committee recommended that a joint mechanism may be instituted for this purpose, comprising of all the concerned Central Departments including Planning Commission, Ministry of Rural Development, Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, NSSO under the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, Registrar General of Census under the Ministry of Home Affairs, Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), the concerned State Government Departments for a joint and comprehensive poverty survey.�
Since different wings of Government cannot be allowed to function at cross-purposes and jeopardise the goal of poverty eradication, the proposed survey in 2011 should thus be undertaken on a joint basis, the Parliamentary Panel has recommended.