Apparently not convinced with the official data, the Supreme Court Tuesday asked the government to come up with a ‘reasonable number’ on people living below poverty line (BPL).
The court said this after the government claimed that there were 5.9 crore BPL families in the country.
A reasonable number on BPL families would help take care of the twin problem of providing food grains to the poor and storage of food grains in warehouses, said an apex court bench of Justice Dalveer Bhandari and Justice Deepak Verma.
The figures on BPL families placed before it by petitioner People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) were ‘startling’, the court observed.
The court said that all the calculations of the BPL families were based on 2001 census.
During the last 10 years, they must have expanded and grown, the court told Additional Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran indicating it was much better to distribute food grains to poor than letting it rot.
The court said that as it is the vagaries of weather and other factors were damaging the stored food grains and from Oct 1, the government has started procurement of kharif crop.
‘The government may consider (the option of revising the BPL families’ figures) on its own,’ Justice Bhandari told Parasaran.
Parasaran admitted that there were differences in the central government’s and states’ parameters for identifying the BPL families. It was because of the differences in criteria that the states were quoting a higher figure on BPL families as compared to the central government, the ASG said.
The court also asked Parasaran on what basis the central government had arrived at the figure of 5.9 crore families under the BPL category.
‘You have come to the conclusion on what basis? Have you conducted an empirical survey,’ asked the court.
Arguing for the PUCL, senior counsel Colin Gonsalves said that even the Planning Commission member Arjun Sengupta did not agree with the parameters adopted by the commission in identifying the BPL families.
The court was told that Sengupta said that the number of BPL families was much more than the figures given by the government. He said that it was nothing but fudging of figures.
The senior counsel told the court that the government was trying to reduce the number of families in the BPL category by lowering the per capita income figure that determines whether a family is poor or not.
After the conclusion of pleadings by the PUCL and the central government, the court Tuesday commenced the hearing on the submissions by state governments. The hearing would continue Thursday.