The Niti Aayog is heading towards a sensible – even revolutionary – decision on defining poverty.
It has recommended adopting a poverty line drawn at Rs 32 a day for people in rural areas and Rs 47 in urban areas, which means a family of five will be considered poor if its monthly expenditure is below Rs 4,800 in rural areas, and Rs 7,200 in urban areas.
The Niti Aayog will probably suggest that 40 percent of India’s population should be considered poor based on 2011 data from the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO).
Niti Aayog should also consider whether a one-size-fits-all 40 percent cutoff should be adopted nationally or state-wise. India has rich states and poor states; states with higher and lower poverty levels; states with lower and higher inflation.
A 40 percent cutoff in the national context will artificially show high levels of poverty in states like Bihar or Madhya Pradesh or Chhattisgarh, spreading resources thinly; if, instead, the 40 percent cutoff is determined state-wise, it would enable sharper focus on the poorest among the poor in the most backward states. This may be a controversial idea, since politically we want to believe that all Indians are equal and deserve the same minimum support, but if one accepts the idea that poverty is always relative, different cutoffs for different states make sense.
There are claims that investments are not picking up, jobs are not being created, but despite all these, the country’s economy is growing at 7-8 per cent.
Opposition parties say that such differences do not amount to much. “The Planning Commission used to plan policy. I don’t know what is the government trying to do by merely changing the nomenclature from Planning Commission to Neeti Ayog,” said Congress spokesman Manish Tewari.
NITI Aayog might still be able to make a difference, but that will require the right people in the team.
The opposition Congress mocked the launch as a cosmetic relabelling exercise – the new body’s acronym-based name means ‘Policy Commission’ in Hindi, suggesting a less bold departure than the English version does.
The National Institute of Labour Economics Research and Development, the only Institute of its kind, was established by the Government of India, in 1962. It is a Central Autonomous Organisation under the NITI Aayog, Ministry of Planning, Government of India.
The Director General of the Institute is appointed by the Government of India and holds the rank of Additional Secretary to the Central Government.
Research forms a core activity of the Institute and includes such efforts as developing methodologies for assessment of stock, forecasting demand for and supply of skills, analytical and theoretical studies on area specific, vocation-group specific, and sector-specific issues and issues relating to human resource development and use.
NILERD regularly publishes research reports and seminar proceedings from its various seminars, workshops and conferences. The Institute publishes Manpower Profile India Yearbook which is widely regarded as the most definitive document on all aspects of human capacities covering population characteristics, manpower formation process, base for manpower utilisation and utilisation characteristics, economic returns from manpower utilisation, labour market features, gender issues and international comparisons.
The Institute’s journal titled, Manpower Journal, is a refereed journal published quarterly from NILERD since 1965. This journal provides a forum for the dissemination of information and research findings on different aspects of manpower, employment and related issues. Original research articles and research notes that fall within the scope of the journal are invited from scholars and practitioners. The Manpower Journal also publishes special issues from time to time.