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Oct 03, 2011 at 05:10pm IST

Government removes Rs 32 BPL cap, to set up new panel

New Delhi: Facing severe criticism over its Rs 32 cap in urban areas for determining the poverty line, the Government finally decided to remove the condition on Monday. The decision to remove the Below Poverty Line (BPL) cap came after Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia and Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh reached an agreement on the issue in a meeting in New Delhi.

"We are clearly, categorically, and unequivocally saying that there is no link between the state wise poverty estimates and the selection of beneficiaries. A new expert committee will be set up so that no poor and deprived household is excluded," said Ramesh while addressing a press conference jointly with Ahluwalia.

Ramesh then went on to say that the Rs 32 cap will be removed.

"No caps will be externally imposed. The Planning Commission and the Rural Development Ministry will work out a new method so that no poor household is excluded," said Ramesh.

Clarifying that the Planning Commission had not fixed the Rs 32 cap to be categorised as a BPL, Ahluwalia said, "This is the lowest level. This is not the view of the Planning Commission. It was fixed in 1973. Clearly it is rock bottom level of existence. Planning Commission has not taken the view that benefits should be restricted to BPL."

Ahluwalia also explained that the Rs 32 (for urban areas) and Rs 26 (for rural areas) are only statistics based on the methodology prescribed by the Suresh Tendulkar Committee and do not reflect the Planning Commission's views.

Monday was the first meeting between them after a controversial affidavit, endorsed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, was filed in the Supreme Court. The matter will come up in the court on October 11.

The view of the Planning Commission that a person can meet expenditure of 'food, health and education' with a sum of Rs 32 in the cities and Rs 26 in the villages had sparked widespread disbelief and condemnation forcing the Congress party to go into damage control.

Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi, too, was reportedly unhappy with these figures.

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