Congress leaders say can eat a meal for Rs 12 in Mumbai and Rs 5 in Delhi

NEW DELHI: The belief that some of India’s politicians are totally removed from reality was further fortified on Thursday, when Congress spokesperson and Bollywood actor Raj Babbar claimed that even today, with prices of all commodities soaring, it is possible to have a complete meal for just Rs 12 in Mumbai.

Going a step further, Congress leader Rasheed Masood said: "You can eat a meal in Delhi in Rs. 5, I don't know about Mumbai. You can get a meal for Rs. 5 near Jama Masjid."

Just a couple of days ago, the Congress had claimed that poverty in India had come down during the United Progressive Alliance regime because of the government’s pro-poor policies.

"The rate of poverty reduction during the seven years of UPA rule till 2011-12 was 2.18 percent against 0.74 percent during 1993-94 to 2003-04. This happened due to pro-poor policies of the government," Congress spokesperson Raj Babbar had told reporters quoting data from a Planning Commission report.

According to the Congress spokesperson, the percentage of poor in 2011-12 has been estimated at 21.9 percent, down from 37.2 percent in 2003-04.

Earlier this week, the Planning Commission said that anyone who spends more than Rs 32 in urban India and Rs 27 in rural areas is above the poverty line. It also said that the percentage of Indians living below the poverty line has fallen to 22 per cent in 2011-12 from 37 per cent in 2004-05, a period of just seven years.

On Thursday, when media persons asked Raj Babbar how could anyone be expected to have two square meals a day with a daily expenditure of only Rs 27 in rural areas, this is what he had to say:

"Even today in Mumbai city, I can have a full meal at Rs 12. No, no, not just vada paav. I can get a lot of rice, daal, sambar and some vegetables too," he claimed.

"We are, however, not deflecting the issue of price rise. Prices have risen, but the fact is that along with that the per capita expenditure has also risen."

The BJP blasted the Congress spokesperson for his remarks and said that his comments were ‘laughable’.

Earlier, the opposition parties and economists dismissed the government’s claim of poverty reduction, saying that this was a cruel joke on the nation and was being done with an eye on the vote bank with general elections just about 8 months away.

Babbar had also said that in terms of numbers, the number of poor came down from 40 crore in the period before 2003-04 to 26 crore in 2011-12.

During the UPA rule, per capita consumption and income also went up, indicating people had slightly more money to spend than before, he said.

Replying to a query, Babbar said the food security ordinance was not for poverty reduction but aimed at providing nutritious food to the beneficiaries constituting 67 percent of the 1.2 billion population.

The BJP slammed the government over the official figures of poverty reduction and said it was a conspiracy against the poor to deny them the benefits of welfare schemes.

Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said that the government should have waited for the report of the Rangarajan committee, set up to review the Tendulkar committee methodology for estimating poverty.

"The poverty line has been fixed on the basis of Tendulkar committee. Rangarajan committee is already working. Why did they not wait for (its) report?" Javadekar asked.

Official data Tuesday showed that the percentage of people below poverty line declined sharply to 21.9 in the 2011-12 financial year from 37.2 recorded in 2004-05.

The national poverty line by using the Tendulkar methodology has been estimated at Rs 816 per capita per month in villages and Rs 1,000 per capita per month in cities.