Universalise the Public Distribution System - Chalo Planning Commision
4th March 2008 - CHALO PLANNING COMMISSION!
UNIVERSALISE THE PUBLIC DISTRIBUTION SYSTEM!
PUBLIC HEALTH, EDUCATION, EMPLOYMENT AND SOCIAL SECURITY FOR ALL
WE SAY …NO TO TARGETING!
“garibon ko mitane wali garibi rekha hatao”!
Consider the following:
IN OUR COUNTRY…
79% unorganised workers, 88% Dalits and Adivasis, 80% OBCs and 84% Muslims survive on Rs 20 per day
The consumption of foodgrains per person has declined from 476grams per day to 418 grams per day. In other words, on an average people are eating 21 kgs less than before.
Every second child under 3 years of age is underweight; every third child is stunted and one out of 5 children under 3 years of age is wasted
3 out of 5 women are anaemic
Every second farmer is indebted
1,66, 304 farmers have committed suicide in the last decade; of these 87, 567 have been in the last five years, which means one farmer’s suicide every 30 minutes
The number of landless households has increased from 22% to 32% in the last 15 years
The average number of working days available to agricultural labour has declined from 123 days to only 72 days, which is hardly two and a half months in a year
It is estimated that over 15 crore children are working as child labour
59% of households do not live in a pucca house, 58% do not have access to piped drinking water, 55% do not have access to toilets, and 32% do not have electricity
It is therefore quite clear that almost two decades of policies of globalization and liberalization have led to an increase in hunger and poverty in our country on all counts.
AND YET, ACCORDING TO THE PLANNING COMMISSION THE PERCENTAGE OF POOR IN THE COUNTRY HAS NOW GONE DOWN TO 22%! No doubt this is an effort to fudge figures to show that the economic policies pursued by the government are resulting in economic prosperity and reduced poverty.
We challenge the Planning Commission. We dispute their claim that poverty has gone down. The Planning Commission’s poverty estimates are at not just faulty, they are FRAUDULENT. They are based on a calorie based poverty line (2100 – 2400 calories per person per day) that was fixed in 1979. On this basis the current poverty line is Rs 327 per person per month for rural areas and Rs 454 in urban areas. The Indian Council of Medical Research has prescribed a minimum of 3800 calories for an adult male and 2925 calories for an adult female undertaking manual labour, which is what most of our people are engaged in. This poverty line is therefore woefully inadequate. Secondly, it is based on the consumption of only foodgrains, and does not take into consideration the fact that people require other essentials such as shelter, clothing, medicines and fuel to survive, apart from education, sanitation and drinking water. Lastly, there has been a huge increase in the price of foodgrains, especially wheat, rice, pulses, milk, sugar, oil, etc, which means the cost of living has gone up, The current poverty line has been calculated at prices that ruled in 1999-2000, and therefore needs to be substantially revised. Some people have calculated that a nutritious diet, healthcare, electricity and kerosene consumption, clothing and other miscellaneous expenditure will require at least Rs 840 per person per month. If we use this more realistic poverty line, then 85% rural and 42% urban people are below the poverty line. THESE ARE THE REAL “BPL” OF INDIA.
It is not just a matter of estimating how many poor people there are in the country. The concept of “BPL” is being used by the Government of India to “target” government schemes and subsidies to those whom the government decides are “poor” on the basis of these fraudulent norms. The allocations for important poverty alleviation programmes are based on these estimates. Take the Public Distribution System. In 1996, as a part of the liberalization policies, the Government of India decided to restrict the sale of subsidized foodgrains to “BPL” families, on the basis of these same grossly underestimated Planning Commission figures. In 2000, it declared that the number of BPL had further declined by 10%, and declared the number of poor families in the country to be 386 lakhs! When many state governments declared that this was unacceptable, the Planning Commission “adjusted” the figure to 488 lakhs! It is quite clear that this figure has nothing to do with ground level realities, because the number of poor is far more. But this quota, imposed from above, means that genuinely poor people are being denied BPL ration cards and cheap foodgrains. This is why lakhs of women are taking to the streets to demand BPL cards. They need the cards, not just for cheap rations and kerosene, but also for subsidized health care, government pension schemes, scholarships and loans for Self Help Groups.
Food, clothing, shelter, employment, health, education, etc are basic needs. Everyone has a right to them, and the state must provide for those who cannot afford them. In a country such as India, where most people are poor, such services must be provided on a universal basis. Targeting is a ploy promoted by the World Bank and IMF to reduce subsidies and government spending. IT IS PUSHIING THE POOR OUT OF SIGHT OF THE GOVERNMENT!
WE OPPOSE TARGETING
WE OPPOSE THE PLANNING COMMISSION’S FRAUDULENT CONCEPT OF “BPL”
WE WANT FOOD SECURITY, HEALTH, EDUCATION, EMPLOYMENT, HOUSING AND SOCIAL SECURITY FOR ALL