development planning in India aimed at bringing the weaker
section of the society to the main stream of development.
However, the growth models adopted for development in
first two decades of planning which were based on 'trickle
down' theory, could not provide any relief to the downtrodden
people. It is well proved by the recorded population of
75% people living below poverty line in the year 1973-1974.
In order to overcome this situation Government of India
brought out specific programmes for the poorer section
of society since the inception of Fifth Five Year
Plan (1974-79). Concerted efforts were made by Government
of India for the eradication of poverty. As a corollary
to it, the first official announcement of the Indian Poverty
Line was made in the Rajya Sabha on December, 21, 1978
by the then Prime Minister.
The poverty line, as announced, was based on the rupee
value of a specified nutritional requirement. It was stipulated
that the calorie standard for a typical individual in
rural areas was 2400 calories and 2100 calories in urban
areas. Then the cost of the grains that fulfil this normative
standard was calculated. This cost was the poverty line.
In 1978, it was Rs. 71.30 and Rs. 61.80 per person per
month for rural and urban areas respectively. Since then,
the Planning Commission recalculates the poverty line
every year adjusting it for inflation. In 1999-2000 the
poverty line stood at Rs. 454.00 and Rs. 328.00 in rural
and urban areas respectively.
In a society where poverty is so pervasive and visible,
the social scientists, particularly economists come forward
to understand the nature and magnitude of poverty. In
this regard the economists viewed Planning Commission's
Poverty Line merely as a 'Starvation Line'. According
to them food is not the only requirement of a human being.
Even in terms of nutrition, the estimates of the Planning
Commission are way off. According to a study conducted
by the National Institute of Nutrition, under the aegis
of Indian Council of Medical Research, the chief authority
of nutritional standard in India, the typical rural Indian
requires 2900 calories and Indian urbanite require 2400
calories per day per head respectively. Furthermore, the
Planning Commission did not mention the minimum requirements
of protein, mineral or vitamins. Based on these analogies
the Economists emphasized upon stipulating the minimum
needs that make up the basic standard of living.
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