Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Rs.25 a day

The Planning Commission has submitted before the supreme court that an individual income of just Rs. 25 a day constitutes adequate “private expenditure on food, education and health.” This amount includes a monthly expenditure of Rs. 31 on rent and conveyance, Rs.18 on education, Rs. 25 on medicines and Rs. 36.50 on vegetables. 

What does this mean ?  That if I earn 25/- a day (assuming 6 days per week for 4 weeks sums to Rs.600) then, I can lead a basic life that will provide me nutritional food, quality education and health.  Who is saying this ?  Have the people who say this tried it out for a day -  a week, forget a month.  Let's assume that basic things like rice, dhal, wheat, sugar... has been procured through the public distribution system.  Even then, if a human being needs to lead a healthy life, he needs to buy vegetables.  Given the cost of vegetables, maybe he will get one piece each - is that enough for a family.  Health - even if I go to a government hospital, I need to travel, but supplements to enable my health.  Education - assume I go to a government school.  So, even considering the above, will it suffice ?  

Looking at it another way, by what is said, a person in that level, can never aspire to something more, because he is not given a chance.  Given the condition of government schools, his/her children cannot aspire to an education that pulls them out of the situation.  The amount and quality of food does not enable a child or an adult to a decent health situation in normal times, forget the times when they are unwell.  

And the worst part is that it comes from the planning commission - which world are these people living in ?  Last week, I was listening to Prof. Kirti Trivedi's comment on MGNREGA.  Many people have the opinion that the NREGA is making people lazy by providing easy access to things.  100 days of work in a year for wages ranging from 100 to 120 a day comes to 10000 - 12000 a year.  All this for only one person in a family.  With this he/she has to provide for a family of 3,4,5,... That is not taken into consideration.  So, 10000 divided by an average of take father, mother, son, daughter-in-law and two children makes it 10000/6 = 1667 per person in a year.  He was right in saying that it is CRUEL to say that MGNREGA is making people lazy and giving them something easily or that it is enough. 

For someone living in poverty or on the fringes of poverty, how much is enough ? Who decides that and how ?

The planning commission today is thinking on the same lines.  Where do we turn to ?  How do they say that a person earning above Rs.25/- a day cannot be categorized under BPL especially given prices of things today.  Then, doesn't a human being need more for just basic existence ?  What about money to pay rent, buy clothes, for entertainment, to eat something different, for travel ?  Or do we think that they do not have the right for that ?

Why don't we have policy makers with a brain and a heart ?  Or is that too much to ask for ?