M A I N   N E W S

Uproar over Plan panel’s poverty estimates in LS
Faraz Ahmad/TNS

New Delhi, March 21
There was an uproar leading to suspension of the Question Hour in the Lok Sabha today over Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia setting the earning of Rs 26 a day in urban areas and Rs 22 a day in rural areas as the benchmark for crossing the poverty line.

Speaker Meira Kumar finally defused the situation by joining almost the entire House, with the exception of the Congress, in expressing her concern over what members described as insensitivity and insult of the poor.

When the House reassembled after the suspension of Question Hour, Sharad Yadav led the charge against Ahluwalia demanding his sack. Other members, too, cutting across party lines, with the sole exception of the Congress, expressed outrage at this assessment and asked the government to reject the Planning Commission report and demanded removal of Ahluwalia, perceived as a confidante of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Significantly, neither the Prime Minister nor Leader of the House Pranab Mukherjee were present in the House today and only UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi sat alone on the front bench. Member after member, starting with Sharad Yadav and Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj, appealed to her directly to intervene and ensure correcting of the situation created by Ahluwalia’s claims about the reducing poverty level in India.

Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, BSP member Dr Baliram, RJD leader Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, all who stood with the government on Motion of Thanks yesterday, as also UPA partners Trinamool Congress MP Kalyan Banerjee and DMK leader TR Baalu, stressed the need to correct the situation created by the Planning Commission’s latest assessment.

While declaring that the poor constituted 65 per cent of this country’s population, Mulayam Singh said: “I am supporting this government, but am opposed to its wrong policies.”

Other members spoke on the same lines and the Speaker restored the order by announcing from the Chair: “This House expresses grave concern over the state of poor in the country. We have clearly to stand on the side of the poor,” and told the members, “We can have a detailed discussion on the subject if the members give a notice.”

Montek in eye of storm

Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia (in pic) was in the eye of a storm in the Lok Sabha over setting the earning of Rs 26 a day in urban areas and Rs 22 a day in rural areas as the benchmark for crossing the poverty line





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