Thursday, April 22, 2010

37.2%. A Number to Remember. A Number to Lower to ZERO.


A Number to Remember. A Number to be Ashamed of.

A Number to be Repelled by.

A Number to Recoil from.

A Number to Lower to ZERO.

The India Government has finally admitted that more than ONE-THIRD of our entire population lives Below the Poverty Line. 400 Million children, women and men.

Millions more have died in previous decades from hunger, malnutrition, starvation and the diseases and disorders resulting from such horrific deprivation.

Now finally the heartlessly cynical netas, babus and armchair economists of the India Govt. at least on paper, have faced up to the grim facts.

37.2%. 400 million plus children, women and men.

But a number on paper is not enough.

We the People cannot rest until that figure reaches ZERO.

We the People cannot rest until 37.2 PLUMMETS to zero.

It must not take India another 63 years to make it zero.



Now make it 0. NOW.


Each One Feed One.

Each one Feed More. TODAY. NOW. ASAP.

Then India has a chance of becoming a DEMOCRACY worth the name.

Chithra KarunaKaran
Ethical Democracy As Lived Practice
------------ copyright

India raises official poverty estimate

India’s Planning Commission has adopted the Suresh Tendulkar Committee’s methodology for poverty estimation, which includes spending on education and health, besides calorie intake, taking the number of the country’s poor to a whopping 37.2% from the 27.5% earlier estimated

After a lot of deliberation, the Indian government has concluded that it has around 100 million more people living below the poverty line than in 2004. This was after the country’s top policy planning body raised its estimate of the nation’s official poverty rate to 37.2% of the population, from 27.5%, a key development as the government drafts legislation to give the poorest Indians a right to state-subsidised foodgrain.

The move by the Planning Commission, which wasn’t announced formally but was confirmed by a senior government official, pegs the number of Indians in poverty at around 410 million -- more than 100 million above the previous estimate.

The change comes after critics said the earlier poverty estimate left too many destitute households out of the government’s food entitlement programmes. But the new poverty figure is unlikely to please food activists and politicians who feel it still vastly underestimates the number of people in need of assistance.

The 37.2% poverty line is based on a new methodology recommended by a panel headed by former economic advisor Suresh Tendulkar, in a report submitted to Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia in December 2009. Although the report still has to be officially accepted, for the limited purposes of food security the Planning Commission agreed to Tendulkar’s recommendations at a recent meeting of its members.

The earlier definition of poverty was based on calorie intake, according to which only 27.5% of people were living below the poverty line and the number of BPL families was around 65 million. With the Plan panel accepting the Tendulkar methodology, 37.2% of the total population, or 81 million families, will be placed below the poverty line.

The new poverty estimate, which will reflect the impact of high growth recorded during the decade, will be available in 2011. Computation of the number of BPL families at this stage assumes significance in view of the government’s decision to enact a food security law under which 25 kg of foodgrain will be provided every month, at Rs 3 per kg, to every BPL family.

The Planning Commission, mandated by the empowered group of ministers, chaired by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, to finalise the BPL numbers, will now meet the secretaries of food and expenditure to calculate the cost of providing food security to so many poor.

The burden on the central exchequer for implementing the food security law will depend on the number of BPL households and the quantity of subsidised foodgrain available with the government. Food subsidy stood at around Rs 72,000 crore in the last financial year.

“Two different poverty lines -- one for food security and the other for all other purposes -- for one country sounds odd. But this has been the most expedient solution for the time being,” said an official who did not wish to be named.

This will raise the number of those eligible for free food significantly -- but nobody’s sure how much. The widely quoted number is close to 10 crore families; some states put it at over 11 crore; the Planning Commission puts it somewhere between 7.5 and 8 crore. The worry is that it demonstrates, again, a dangerously halfhearted commitment to food security: dangerous because it will neither be abandoned nor effectively implemented, and the country could end up with a system that feeds too few and costs too much.

“This is a very low, suppressed poverty line. We reject it,” Kavita Srivastava, an activist who led a ‘right to food’ rally in the capital recently, said. “As far as we’re concerned, it still doesn’t tell us the real number of poor.”

Among the protesters at the rally was 50-year-old Kesar Sahu who lives in a slum in Rajasthan’s capital, Jaipur, and supports herself and two daughters by sweeping floors and cutting vegetables at schools. The Rs 1,000 she earns in a good month isn’t enough to make do, even with existing government subsidies, she said. “We’re only getting 35 kg (of foodgrain) now. We really need 50 kg to get by. Everyone should get that much.”

Though India’s economy emerged from the global downturn with a solid gross domestic product growth of 7.2% in the year ended March 31, the country’s poor are struggling to deal with year-on-year food inflation that is hovering around 17%. Even before rising food prices, India was struggling with high malnutrition rates.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government has pushed for legislation that will provide 25 kg of wheat and rice per month to households deemed officially below the poverty line. India already has a programme in place to distribute about 35 kg of subsidised foodgrain to poor households, but the rate is about 50% more expensive than what’s now being proposed.

Moreover, there is no law that guarantees food subsidies -- they are given at the central government’s discretion. And the current programme is plagued by corruption, with one-third of grain pilfered or rotting before it reaches needy households.

Experts say a third of the world’s poor are in India, living on less than $ 2 per day, worse than in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

Source: The Indian Express, April 19, 2010
Press Trust of India, April 19, 2010
The Economic Times, April 18, 2010
Wall Street Journal, April 18, 2010


Economic Times copyright

now has 100 million more people living below the poverty line than in 2004, according to official estimates released on Sunday.

The poverty rate has risen to 37.2 percent of the population from 27.5 percent in 2004, a change that will require the Congress-ruled government to spend more money on the poor.

The new estimate comes weeks after Sonia Gandhi, head of the Congress party, asked the government to revise a Food Security Bill to include more women, children and destitutes. [my emphasis added]

"The Planning Commission has accepted the report on poverty figures," Abhijit Sen, a member of the Planning Commission told Reuters, referring to the new poverty estimate report submitted by a government panel last December.

India now has 410 million people living below the U.N. estimated poverty line of $1.25 a day, 100 million more than was estimated earlier, officials said.

India calculates how much of its population is living below the poverty line by checking whether families can afford one square meal a day that meets minimum nutrition needs.

It was not immediately clear how much more the federal government would have to spend on the poor, as that would depend on the Food Security Bill when it is presented to the government after the necessary changes, officials say.

India's Planning Commission will meet the food and expenditure secretaries next week to estimate the cost aspects of the bill, government officials said.

A third of the world's poor are believed to be in India, living on less than $2 per day, worse than in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa
, experts say.

The government spends only 1 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on healthcare facilities, forcing millions to struggle to get medicines, Oxfam and 62 other agencies said in a report called: "Your Money
or Your Life" last year.

While India's economy is slowly recovering from a global recession with a GDP growth of 7.2 percent, millions of poor in rural India are finding it difficult to cope with around 17 percent food price inflation.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Greenpeace India Alert! Grow Food, Plant Trees, Don't Just Say NO!

Dear Greenpeace,

Greenpeace should GROW FOOD on Delhi sidewalks, PLANT TREES in India's cities.

Stand FOR something, not always as a naysayer. It's just not enough to just say NO.
Of course we can and must criticize Chavan but it is ridiculous to "arrest" Chavan. Chavan is a policy maker and that is his legal responsibility -- to make policy.

It is of course our responsibility, as Indians, as citizens, as residents, as people who care, to stop the BRAI from taking healthy food from the hungry mouths of millions of our sisters and brothers, our children suffering from malnutrition and from developmental delays.

Maybe Greenpeace could plant an organic vegetable garden in Parliament as well as in the space in front of Chavan's official Delhi residence. Let's DO it.

I am an ardent supporter of Greenpeace India activism. I usually sign up on all your excellent petitions.

But in addition to protest, Greenpeace must say YES and Do YES.

Otherwise all you do is protest. That is not good enough for Greenpeace India. Protest is a necessary but not sufficient strategy for Greenpeace India.

Greenpeace India has to build a new democratic model for energizing civil society in India.

Remember Gandhi? His life was his message. He DID something. He cleaned toilets. He spun. He made salt. His life was his message. He didn't just protest.

The old India is still the New India, an inspiring, ethical continuity from old to new. That's what we want for our country, our unprecedented democracy.

So Greenpeace India, Tweak your strategy. DO what you stand for, don't just protest. DO MORE and BE More.

Sincere Regards,

Chithra KarunaKaran
New York, NY

Ethical Democracy As Lived Practice blog