Indian media: Poverty line redefined

Papers say for many in India "getting two meals a day may be difficult" Image copyright AFP
Image caption Papers say for many in India getting two meals a day may be difficult

Media focus on a new report that says nearly one in three Indians is living in poverty.

The Hindustan Times said the report was commissioned following widespread criticism two years ago that the government had grossly underestimated the number of poor in the country by choosing an unrealistic poverty line.

The new panel, headed by the former governor of the Reserve Bank of India, C Rangarajan, estimates there were 363 million people, or 29.5% of India's 1.2 billion population, who lived in poverty in 2011-12. The number is significantly higher than the official estimate of 269 million and the difference is attributed mainly to a change in the definition of the poverty line, the paper explains.

According to the new formula, people living on less than 32 rupees (£0,31; $0.55) a day in rural areas and 47 rupees (£0,46; $0,78) a day in urban areas are considered poor. In contrast, the official estimate defines people living on less than 27 rupees (£0,26; $0,45) a day in rural areas and 33 rupees (£0,32; $0,55) a day in urban areas as poor.

The Times of India says the formula adopted by the previous government had fixed "abnormally low poverty lines" at which "getting two meals may be difficult". The daily adds that the new recommendation, made just ahead of the budget session of parliament, is expected to generate fresh debate over the poverty measure as the new committee's report had only raised the bar marginally.

According to the Business Standard, the Rangarajan panel has also suggested that poverty ratios should be disengaged from entitlements under various social security programmes. "This means that entitlements for, say, the Food Security Act should not be based on the number of people below the poverty line but on some other methodology such as, say, the social and caste census," the daily explains.

The Hindustan Times reports that new estimates were submitted to the government last week, but adds that it is not yet clear whether they will be adopted as new official estimates on poverty.

Back from Iraq

Meanwhile, 200 Indians arrived home on Sunday after they were evacuated from violence-hit Iraq, according to reports.

The external affairs ministry has said 600 more people will return in the next two days, writes The Times of India.

The Hindu praises the government for "astute diplomacy and a calibrated exercise of soft power" in ensuring the return of Indian nationals.

Forty-six Indian nurses also arrived home at the weekend from Tikrit after they were freed by the Islamist militant group Isis (the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant). Tikrit and Mosul are among a number of Iraqi cities Isis has seized in recent weeks.

Cleaning the Ganges

The newspapers are discussing the government's first national-level meeting on cleaning up the Ganges river.

Policy makers, environmentalists and spiritual leaders will participate in the meeting on Monday to discuss ways to stop river pollution.

However, the government and environmentalists are facing an enormous challenge, says the Hindustan Times.

"Over the decades, several attempts costing millions have already been made to no avail. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that the Modi government is staring at a Herculean task that could take many years," the paper says.

Cleaning up the Ganges, a river considered holy by the Hindus, was one of the promises made by the new PM Narendra Modi during his election campaign.

Wall collapse disaster

In a tragic incident, a wall has collapsed killing 11 people near Chennai in southern Tamil Nadu state.

A teenager and a two-year-old boy were among the victims after a compound wall collapsed near a construction site, The Hindu reports.

A recent building collapse in Chennai killed 61 people.

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