By Manish Anand
New Delhi, January 17: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that the “NITI Aayog in a report revealed that close to 25 crore people came out of poverty in the last nine years”. He also said that along with the consecration of the Ram idol in Ayodhya the poverty reduction is a good news.
With Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Reddy clapping on the stage, Modi said at a public event: “Earlier others used to talk of ‘Garibi Hatao’. We have actually done it. Now, ‘neo middle class’ is coming out along with middle class.”
The ‘report’, referred by Modi and others, is a discussion paper, according to the NITI Aayog. This discussion paper builds on an earlier report of the NITI Aayog — ‘National Multidimensional poverty: A Progress Review -2023’ – which was based on the data of NFHS (National Family Health Survey) 4 and 5. It had claimed that 13.5 crore people escaped poverty between 2015-16 and 2019-21.
Within a few months of the release of the report, the NITI Aayog now brings out a discussion work to claim that not 13.5 crore but 24.82 crore people escaped poverty between 2013-14 and 2022-23. Before amplifiers begin blaring the claim, a curious look at the authorship of the discussion paper may be illuminating.
The NITI Aayog discussion paper is authored by Ramesh Chand. He is Member (Agriculture) of the NITI Aayog. His last paper that had turned into a major slogan was about doubling farmers’ income by 2022. Chand’s expertise is in the matters of agriculture. He is invited to give lectures in agriculture universities in India.
Chand is not reckoned as an economist. He is also not a statistician. The discussion paper builds a case on the basis of a work of “interpolation and extrapolation”. Indeed, the estimation of multidimensional poverty incidence factors in the impact of the welfare measures of the government – a dozen in the case of India while it’s 10 globally.
Also, the claims in the discussion paper are banking on the NFS data in the absence of credible expenditure and income estimates. India is without expenditure data for years – the outcome of the exercise done in 2017 had been withheld. The Census 2021 is now forgotten. The Planning Commission’s poverty line of Rs 32 a day income in the urban areas and Rs 28 a day in the rural areas is now buried.
Last week Union Minister for External Affairs Subhramanyam Jaishankar was visibly floored by a young woman during his book promotion town hall in Nagpur, as she plainly asked: “Why are we giving free foodgrains to 80 crore people.”
Jaishankar said: “Yes. Ok. No. I will answer the question. Look, all countries care for the people. The western world also takes care of the people in the form of healthcare and other measures. We also care for the people who are weak. We need to protect them.”