Congress claims Rs 5 ample for hearty meal
By Santwana Bhattacharya | Published: 26th July 2013 08:56 AM |
In the current environment of competitive politics, the Congress could hardly let its main political rival, the BJP, accuse it of conspiring with the Planning Commission to lower the poverty level just so the government can dole out less welfare benefits to lesser number of people.
So, on Thursday, the Congress party not only backed the plan panel’s claim that the poverty level has sharply declined to 21.9 per cent, it also asserted that a person can survive on much less than Rs 34 a day — even in the cities of Mumbai and Delhi — thereby justifying the benchmark used to determine the urban poverty figures. And, in the process it virtually reduced the poverty debate into farce.
Congress spokesperson Raj Babbar, using his histrionic skills to the hilt, claimed it was possible to have “a hearty meal” of chawal-sambar-sabzi in the heart of Mumbai for just Rs 12, no more.
“Even today in Mumbai, I can have a full meal at Rs 12. No, no not vada paav. So much rice, daal sambar and with that some vegetables are also mixed,’’ Babbar said, desperately gesticulating with his hand to show the amount of food was not inconsiderable.
If he claimed Rs 12 was enough to buy a meal in Mumbai, his colleague Rasheed Masood topped it by insisting that in Delhi one can get by “with Rs 5 only”. “I don’t know about Mumbai, but in Delhi’s Jama Masjid you can eat a meal with Rs 5 ‘only’!”
So, it appeared, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, the deputy chairman Planning Commission, need not worry about walking into another poverty quagmire. The data that the plan panel under his helm has put out two days ago had many backers in the Congress party.
But not quite. A Planning Commission spokesperson said, “These are routine data the Commission prepares to update poverty statistics and we’ve followed a methodology to arrive at the results.”