Politics of poverty

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Senior leader of Peoples Democratic Party Muzaffar Hussain Beigh Photo: Bilal Bahadur

[stextbox id=”info”]Former deputy chief minister Muzaffar Hussain Baig struck out his name from proposed BPL list in Baramulla. The adulterated list was challenged by NSSO which stated that 85.4 percent of BPL/AAY cards in J&K were with non-poor. E&S Department has now challenged the NSSO figures.  HAROON MIRANI reports the controversy and its implications.
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A survey by J&K’s Economics and Statistics (E&S) Department states that the below poverty line (BPL) population in Jammu and Kashmir is five times higher than figures of National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO).

The latest findings, which the E&S department claims to have the acceptance of Planning Commission of India, can be the basis for fund allocation for the Jammu and Kashmir state in future.

A survey conducted by NSSO in 2004-05, to determine whether the benefits of schemes for BPL families were reaching the deserving ones, had come out with surprising figures. According to the survey, an astonishing number of 85.4 percent of BPL/AAY (Annapurna Awas Yojna) cards in J&K were with non-poor, which is the highest in entire India. The survey suggested that 17.2 percent of total non-poor population were receiving the benefits of BPL/AAY cards.

According to NSSO, 7.9 percent of poor in J&K had no ration cards and were thus deprived of any benefits. And only 55.1 percent of poor had BPL/AAY cards, though only 14.6 percent of total cards issued in J&K had gone to the deserving ones.

Based on the figures of families receiving BPL benefits, state has been arguing that a large chunk of its population is poor.
According to NSSO, J&K’s poverty rate was only 4.78 percent. It is on this basis that Planning Commission has been allocating funds for the state. The E&S Department report challenges these figures.

“All our intellectuals and economists were arguing that the figures are not correct,” says G A Qureshi, director Economics and Statistics. “So the government ordered us to conduct a fresh survey to determine the number of people living below poverty line in Kashmir.”

The department designed the study with norms acceptable to NSS, Central Statistical Organisation (CSO) and other agencies.  “The study was conducted on seven percent of the population,” Qureshi said.

The survey done by E&S Department states that poverty stands at 21.63 per cent in Jammu and Kashmir, a figure many times higher than the NSS findings. Poverty in rural areas is at 26.75 per cent and in urban areas the percentage of poverty equals eight percent.

According to Qureshi, the parameters to determine poverty were stronger than those employed by NSS. “We are using Per Capita Income (PCI) on current prices while as NSS relies on 1993-94 prices,” he says.

The scale used by E&S Department said that persons and families with PCI per month of Rs 500 or less for rural areas and Rs 600 or less for urban areas fell below the BPL.

“Number of other criteria have also been employed to locate the real poor people,” said Qureshi.
According to the study, Kishtwar, Reasi, Ramban, Kargil, Kupwara, Bandipora and Poonch were among the poorest districts in Jammu and Kashmir. Jammu, Srinagar and Samba were the richest. Some areas of the state have recorded poverty percentage as high as 60 percent, thus projecting a grave picture of its socio-economic condition.

The first of its kind study has complete detail of poor people from all the 22 districts of the state. “It will go a long way in efficient planning of our resources and government will certainly gain by devising developmental schemes that will reach the deserving sections.” According to Qureshi, the new study based on facts has been appreciated by the Planning Commission too.

The disparity of poverty figures between state and New Delhi has long been a point of contention. New Delhi used to allocate funds according to its own figures and state would cry over it being injudicious. Now the state

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