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‘How can one buy 2,400-calorie food for Rs 11?’
SC slams Planning Commission, says poverty norms illogical
R Sedhuraman
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, July 22
The Supreme Court today grilled the Planning Commission and the government on the yardsticks for identifying people living below the poverty line (BPL), observing that the methods were beyond its comprehension. A Bench comprising Justices Dalveer Bhandari and Deepak Verma pointed out that according to one norm, any person earning more than Rs 11 a day in the rural areas and Rs 17 in cities would not come under the BPL category and would rather be treated as above poverty line (APL).

Under another yardstick, the government treated all those eating food containing less than 2,400 calories of energy as the BPL category, the court noted. Given the galloping inflation and the consequent erosion in the purchasing power of people, how could anyone buy food containing 2,400 calories for Rs 11 or Rs 17, the Bench wanted to know.

“It is for you to explain it properly,” the Bench told Additional Solicitor-General Mohan Parasaran and the Planning Commission counsel and suggested the commission to file a fresh affidavit making the clarification.

At an earlier hearing, the court had questioned the logic of keeping the BPL norm at Rs 11-17. But the commission filed an affidavit sticking to the norm, prompting the Bench to point out the inconsistencies between the monetary and calorie norms.

The government stand on helping pregnant mothers also came under the scanner during the arguments on the functioning of the public distribution system. Under the present policy, women are entitled to pregnancy assistance if they are of marriageable age and are expecting only their first or second child.

Senior counsel Colin Gonsalves, appearing for the PIL petitioner (PUCL), wanted to know as to how the government could deny the unborn children of their right to nutrition. The government was also discriminating children born at home against those born in hospitals in the matter of cash assistance, he said. The arguments would continue on August 18.





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