The New Age Mantra is Garib Hatao

15 Oct

THE deputy chairman of Planning Commission, despite an all round critique, still maintains with an unbelievable audacity, that the poverty line cut offs for urban and rural areas – Rs 32 and 26, is not “that ridiculous”! By saying, not ‘that ridiculous’, is he then accepting that it is in fact ridiculous? Semantics apart, let us see what this money means.

 

It was reported that some people had sent demand drafts for Rs 32 to the deputy chairman and challenged him to show how to live with that money. I too thought about it, but decided not to send him the money. I believe he has enough for himself to test his theories, and I don’t want him to become that much richer and me poorer by that much. Instead, I decided to try to ‘live’ with that amount for a day.

 

As reported in various newspapers, the monthly cut-off given by the Planning Commission in an affidavit to the Supreme Court was broken down using the Consumer Price Index of Industrial Workers for 2010-11 and the breakdown given in Annexure E of the Tendulkar report of expenditure calculated at 2004-05 prices. Accordingly thus, spending Rs 5.5 on cereals per day is good enough to keep people healthy. Similarly, a daily spend of Rs 1.02 on pulses, Rs 2.33 on milk and Rs 1.55 on edible oil should be enough to provide adequate nutrition and keep people above the poverty line without the need of subsidised rations from the government. It further suggests that just Rs 1.95 on vegetables a day would be adequate. A bit more, and one might end up outside the social security net. People should be spending less than 44 paise on fruits, 70 paise on sugar, 78 paise on salt and spices and another Rs 1.51 on other foods per day to qualify for the BPL list and for subsidy under various government schemes. A person using more than Rs 3.75 per day on fuel to run the kitchen is doing well as per these figures. Forget about the fuel price hike and sky-rocketing rents, if anyone living in the city is spending over Rs 49.10 a month on rent and conveyance, he or she would not be a poor person.

 

First let us start with Rs1.02 on pulses. One kilogram of arhar dal is Rs 80, so 100 grams is Rs 8 and with Rs 1.02 what we get is one-eighth of 100 gms, ie, 12.5 gms. Just as deputy chairman of Planning Commission would buy gold, we should go to buy dal. Yes, both share one interesting property – both are yellow in colour.

 

Now vegetables. We are allotted Rs 1.95 for eating vegetables, forget the fact that you need to eat at least two servings of vegetables to avoid cancer (First you have to survive, for cancer to survive upon you!) On an average now in Delhi, vegetables are costing Rs 35 per kg or Rs 3.5 per 100 gms. So with Rs 1.95 we can purchase 55.71 gms of vegetables, which is like two brinjals or four ladies fingers. Get ready to cook and eat your lip smacking curry!

 

Milk is allotted Rs 2.33. One litre of toned milk in Delhi is Rs 29. So with Rs 2.33 we roughly get 80.34 ml of milk. Quite a lot, to satisfy our needs of calcium, Vitamin A, fat and proteins!

 

Edible oil is given Rs 1.55. Called the cheapest of all edible oils, the price of mustard oil in Delhi is around Rs 75. So with the amount given for buying oil we get just above one tablespoon of oil per day. This is mighty innovative way to care for our health!

 

Apart from this, we have Rs 1.95 to spend as it was allotted to other foods and fruits. Because in these times of ‘austerity’ where our leaders are travelling ‘cattle class’ (of course, in aeroplanes), we cannot be so extravagant as to eat fruits. So we add the 44 paise given for it to the 1.71 given to other foods. This brings into our hand another Rs 1.95 to balance the cost of any of the above mentioned food articles that might ‘slightly’ go above the stipulated cost. After all the Planning Commission is like our meteorological bureau – both the weather and the prices cannot be predicted! So we now will have 50 paise more to spend on oil, dals, vegetables and milk and even that does not add much to our bag. Do not panic, we have huge margins for our savings from other ‘items’.

 

As for healthcare, according to the Planning Commission, Rs 39.70 per month is sufficient to stay healthy. On education, the plan panel feels those spending 99 paise a day or Rs 29.60 a month in cities are doing well enough not to need any help. Similarly, one could be considered not poor if he or she spends more than Rs 61.30 a month on clothing, Rs 9.6 on footwear and another Rs 28.80 on other personal items.

 

With the money you are spending on your food, courtesy the Planning Commission, you can be rest assured that we will not fall ill – we will only die from starvation – because to fall ill there should be a body. So Rs 39.70 sanctioned for our health is benevolence bestowed upon us on behalf of the Planning Commission.

 

With the Rs 29.60 given for education you could buy two notebooks every month. Isn’t this more than enough? With the emphasis of the government and NCERT on ‘reducing the burden’ of child, one need not (sorry, should not) buy so many books. Oh, you are thinking of pens to write on the books and their cost? Forget them – do not buy the books, then the need for buying pens automatically does not arise. Intelligent, isn’t it?

 

Rs 9.6 on footwear per month. It works out to Rs 115.2 per year on footwear. That is one Bata hawai pair per year. Do not worry, the advertisements say that they last long. If they  use them sparingly and do not walk much, it reduces the time you spend on working. And once while working, why do you need footwear?

 

I do not want to comment on clothing. Till date, I did not understand why the media is giving so much prominence to fashion shows, running even a separate channel for fashion. Now, I understood. This is to drive the message that to be fashionable you need to wear torn clothes. So with Rs 61.30 for clothing, the Planning Commission is inculcating the sense of fashion amongst us. It is ’empowering’ us, making us part of the ‘fashion fraternity’ and thus part of the growing India or glowing India. So come, let us all shine in our ’emperor’s clothes’!

 

Now let us hear the growth story too. No, not our growth – the growth of hunger, poverty, malnutrition – not that. The growth of billionaires. In our country, the number of dollar billionaires has increased to 69 this year from 52 last year. Celebrate the growth story! Their combined worth is around 30 per cent of the country’s GDP. Another round of applause for their stupendous performance.

 

Are you tired of clapping? Wait, it does not finish here. There is another section in our society that deserves our applause for contributing to this growth story. It is none other than, our government, led by our beloved prime minister and his beloved deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, finance minister, industries minister, commerce minister and not to forget the home minister and for that matter the entire cabinet. Sorry, how can we leave out the ‘Prince’ from getting his due share of applause. Let us thus applause collectively to this entire team for our growth story.

 

I am not biased. Did not the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and the National Election Watch (NEW), show that the average asset worth of a union minister rose from Rs 7.3 crore to Rs10.6 crore in those 28 months? Of course, only adding a modest million a month on an average through 28 months! Nonetheless, a performance worthy of applause. May they and their ilk continue in the cabinet and milk us dry!

 

Yes, milk us dry. According to the new international Multi-dimensional Poverty Index about 645 million people or 55 per cent ofIndia’s population is poor. There are more poor people in eight Indian states alone (421 million in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal) than in the 26 poorest African countries combined (410 million). The prevalence of underweight children in India is among the highest in the world – double that of sub-Saharan African countries. So instead of looking at Somalia for pictures of the malnourished and the poor, just loot outside on the streets, in our cities and villages.

 

It is to erase this presence of the poor that now the slogan is Garib Hatao, as it has already been proved that with the kind of policies that our government is implementing garibi cannot be eliminated. Instead, the easy way is, ‘garib hatao’. ‘What an idea Sir ji?’

 

Do you think the poor feature in the growth story – as workers, peasants and other toilers, who had created this wealth? The Planning Commission doesn’t think so. Its ridiculously outmoded thoughts are dangerous to the country. Before it runs havoc with our lives, we the majority should unite and show them that we who create the wealth can also create a new society, bereft of all the leeches – corporates and et al – sucking our blood.

 

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