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Punjab has lowest poverty ratio in rural areas
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 27
Even while Punjab’s GDP is growing at a slow pace compared to certain other big states and its agriculture sector, which is the lifeline of its economy, has been registering sluggish growth for the past few years, the state has got the distinction of having the lowest poverty ratio in its rural areas.

As far as the lowest poverty ratio in the urban areas of the big states is concerned, Punjab figures above Haryana, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Assam and Himachal Pradesh in the list released by the Planning Commission of India recently.

Only 23.18 lakh persons (8.26 per cent of the total population) are below the poverty line in the state according to the latest Planning Commission’s figures. In 2004-05, 53.6 lakh persons were below poverty line in the state.

Obviously, strong fundamentals in the state’s economy, which is otherwise in a sort of crisis, have helped in lowering the poverty ratio in Punjab. In fact, Punjab has recorded a substantial decline in poverty in a period of seven years from 2004-05 to 2011-12. “On the basis of latest figures released by the Planning Commission, the state’s poverty ratio, which was 22.1 per cent in rural areas in 2004-05 has come down to 7.66 per cent. It has come down to 9.24 per cent from 18.7 per cent in urban areas,” said a senior official of the state Planning Board.

The average per capita monthly expenditure in rural areas has been pegged at Rs 2,136.39 in rural areas and Rs 2,743.07 in urban areas by the commission. Barring Kerala, Punjab is at the top among big states as far as the average per capita monthly expenditure in rural areas is concerned.

As far as per capital expenditure in urban areas is concerned, it is behind a number of states including Haryana, Karnataka, Kerala, Himachal Pradesh and Maharashtra.

Interestingly, while the number of below poverty line families in the state has come down to about 4.6 lakh (considering each family comprises five members), the state government has been giving wheat and pulses at subsidised rates to 15.4 lakh families under the Atta-Dal scheme for which families having per annum income below Rs 30,000 are included.

When the Centre’s food security programme will be launched in the state, about 36 lakh families are expected to be covered under it. The total number of families in the state is in the range of 58 lakh. The state government had recently ordered the addition of at least 1 lakh families to list of Atta-Dal scheme beneficiaries.

A senior official said that it was a good sign that the number of below poverty line families had come down. But that would result in fiscal loss to the state government, he said. “Many grants are given by the Centre to the states under poverty alleviation programmes. Punjab will lose a major part of such grants now,” said the official.

Poverty threshold

Under Tendulkar Committee methodology, a person whose daily expenditure exceeds Rs 33.33 in an urban area and Rs 27.20 in a rural area is considered above the poverty line.





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