The poverty rate in the country has declined by nearly three times under UPA rule since 2004-05 compared to the 11 years before that, a Planning Commission report said Tuesday.
The sharp fall is expected to help the government claim that its economic policies have worked.
“During the 11-year period, the average decline in the poverty ratio was 0.74 percentage points per year. It accelerated to 2.18 per cent per year in the (next) seven year period,” the report said.
But the commission’s claim was countered by economists who said the rate of reduction would have been slower if the survey had covered the last two years when GDP growth declined. The commission has also accepted that the scale of reduction in poverty could be clipped if revisions under way are incorporated in the data.
“If the survey had covered the period 2012-13, which saw GDP growth slipping to 5 per cent, the poverty outcome would not have been that satisfying,” said Amitabh Kundu, former member of the National Statistical Commission.
Among the states, poverty was highest in Chhattisgarh at 39.93 per cent, while Bihar was at 33.74 and Gujarat at 16.63. Goa has reported the lowest number of those below the poverty line at 5.09 per cent.
The report sticks to the poverty line estimate based on the Suresh Tendulkar formula of Rs 32 per head a day. While another committee headed by Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council chairman C Rangarajan has begun examining the data afresh following an uproar about the cut-off, the planning commission report claims that “although the trend decline is based on the Tendulkar poverty line which is being reviewed... an increase in the poverty line will not alter the fact of a decline”.
The data shows the absolute number of people below the poverty line in the country has come down from 407.1 million in 2004-05 to 269.3 in 2011-12. the National Sample Survey Office, which conducts surveys for calculating the poverty level, did a special survey in 2011-12 to highlight the steep drop in the poverty ratio.
“These surveys are normally conducted on quinquennial basis. The last quinquennial survey in this series was