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The poverty line - how should it be defined?

India since independence has achieved a lot in the term of GDP growth, per capita income, and in other economic index but it still has a very big portion of population living under poverty line.

Generally the populations below the poverty line are considered as the people who can't afford their basic daily requirement.

Modern economists define the poverty line in various ways. Planning commission of India has periodically defined the poverty line. A committee was constituted under the chairmanship of Prof. Suresh. D Tendulkar, to review the methodology for estimation of poverty line for the period 2004 – 2015 and 2009 – 2010.

Tendulkar used implicit prices derived from quantity and data collected in household consumer expenditure surveys to compute and define the poverty line.

Tendulkar's report says a person was considered above poverty line if he/she earns Rs 22.44 per day in rural area and Rs 28.65 per day in urban areas. According to Tendulkar's committee 21.9% Indians were considered below poverty line in the year 2011 – 2012.

This figure of poverty line defined by Prof Tendulkar is contested by many people. It is being said; in the age of high inflation fixing this poverty line is ludicrous. These days one needs at least Rs 30 for a single meal and a person's calorie requirement can't be met by a single meal. Beside food, there are other requirements like cloths, shelter etc. So the amount suggested by Prof. Tendulkar to define poverty line is untenable.

The definition given by Tendulkar received a lot of criticism. So the Planning Commission constituted an expert group headed by noted economist C. Rangarajan to review the Tendulkar Committee. The committee that was constituted to find the correct measure to define the poverty line has still to submit its report.

Meanwhile, a report on Indian states by current RBI governor Raghuram Rajan is being considered to define the poverty line.

Rajan has categorized the states on composite index on the basis of 10 equally weighted indicators for monthly per capita consumption expenditure, education, health, household amenities, poverty rate, female literacy, percentage of the Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe population, urbanization rate, financial inclusion and physical connectivity.

There is however no consensus on this definition. In its absence we need to give a new definition to poverty. Every individual should be considered poor or below poverty line who can't fulfill all his/her basic requirement of life. A person must have enough earning so that he/she can afford two times meal to remain healthy and have cloths to wear. Besides, fulfill other bare minimal needs for survival.

In the term of individual's poverty calculation, it can be considered as monthly consumption expenditure capability, expenditure on education, health, household amenities, etc. Imbalance in any of these should be considered as a point of poverty for the individual.

Poverty should never be measured on the basis of family income. As every individual have specific requirement. In the patriarchal Indian society, it is high time to consider every woman individually and she should never be considered dependent on other family members.

Poverty line should not merely consider as income level but also the availability of resources for daily requirements. If an individual falls short in them he/ she should be bracketed under the poverty line.

Mani Kant Jha