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Jul 30, 2013 at 11:16am IST

Poverty line status check: Can a family of 5 live on Rs 6,000 a month?

New Delhi: As politicians reduce the poverty line debate to a farce, CNN-IBN's Rupashree Nanda spent a day with a family of five to do a status check. She checked whether it was actually possible to live on Rs 6,000 per month.

The Planning Commission says that any individual who can spend more than Rs 33 a day is above poverty line. It says this amount is adequate to meet expenditure for food, health and education. But is the estimate fanciful? Far removed from the realities on the ground, CNN-IBN tracked the family of Abdul Razak of Nizam Basti in Delhi as he struggles to keep his family afloat.

In the holy month of Ramzan, when business is lean and the ordinarily bustling lanes are deserted, Abdul Razak struggles to find work in one of the florist's shops. Abdul makes around Rs 3,000 a month, but it's all up to luck. On a good day Abdul earns just Rs 200 and on a bad day, nothing.

At the end of the day, Abdul returns to his dilapidated and crowded dwelling that he calls home, where there is no electricity and the heat has forced his three children out on to the streets. His wife Afsari works as a domestic help. She too earns Rs 3,000 per month and technically, this family is above poverty line. But their condition tells a different story. The family of five spends Rs 10 to use the public toilet and a few more to feed the kids a cup of tea and biscuits. Often they survive on charity.

"The day I earn Rs 100 or 150, that day there is some contentment in the house. The day I earn less than that, we have to eat less. And when I earn even less, we go to baba's langar," Abdul said.

There are days when Afsari returns home and there is no food in the house, there are empty containers and utensils, there is no rice, daal or oil and there is no lunch for the children. "In the village we had better food. Here, for every rupee we have to depend on others. I have to ask for an advance loan of Rs 200 from employers so that we can buy food for the evening," Afsari said.

Back in Bihar, before they emigrated to Delhi, this family had a BPL card. They got 10 kg rice and 10 kg wheat. The elder children used to go to school. Now, Farhana keeps an eye on her younger brother Mujahid, while older Shahid looks for work.

Afsari leaves for work again hoping to get Rs 200 as advance from her employers so that she can buy something for dinner. Unable to bear it any more, Abdul gets some food from a hotel on credit of Rs 60 after which Farhana gets her first proper food of the day.

Each of the rooms where Abdul lives cost Rs 2,000 per month. There is a roof over the head but little shelter from the rain.

What is the average monthly expenditure of this family? Rs 2,000 on rent, Rs 3,600 on food, Rs 300 on toilets, Rs 500 on health, that comes to Rs 6,400 and this excludes the expenditure on clothes or education. The Planning Commission's cap of Rs 5,000 per household seems a ridiculous amount for this family, which for the government is not poor, but still doesn't have enough to even eat.