Saturday, July 27, 2013


Digvijaya slams plan panel ‘ poor’ figures
AMID mounting criticism of poverty reduction estimates by the Planning Commission, Congress leader Digvijaya Singh ( in picture) on Saturday joined Union Minister Kapil Sibal in questioning the criteria for fixing poverty line.
Singh feels malnourishment in members of family should be the criteria and that the existing method was too abstract and can't be same for all areas.
“ I have always failed to understand the Planning Commission criteria for fixing poverty line. It is too abstract can't be same for all areas,” the Congress general secretary posted on Twitter.
In another tweet, Singh made a strong pitch for linking poverty with malnutrition and anaemia.
“ First indicator of Poverty is Malnourishment and Anaemia in the Family which is easily measurable.
Can't we have that as a criteria?” Singh tweeted.
His remarks came a day after Kapil Sibal challenged the method used by the Planning Commission to calculate poverty saying a family of five cannot live on ` 5,000 a month. “ If the Planning Commission said those who live above ` 5,000 a month are not at poverty line, obviously there is something wrong with the definition of poverty in this country. How can anybody live at ` 5,000?” Sibal had said in Kolkata on Friday.
The plan panel released the latest poverty estimates earlier this week for the country showing that the percentage of people below poverty line declined sharply to 21.9 in the financial year 2011- 12 from 37.2 in 2004- 05. It had said for a family of five, the BPL cap in terms of expenditure would amount to ` 4,080 per month in rural areas and ` 5,000 per month in urban areas.
Singh's attack on Planning Commission came a day after the Congress distanced itself from the remarks by two of its leaders that one could have meals at ` 5 and ` 12 which have been ridiculed by several parties.

After making absurd claims on the cheapest meal our politicians get a thumbs down as they appear disconnected with everyday realities
MUMBAI eatery owner Mohammad Hussain responds with an incredulous smirk when told about Lok Sabha MP Raj Babbar’s claim that a meal in Mumbai costs ` 12. “ How can one expect a full meal to cost ` 12 when a bottle of packaged drinking water costs ` 20?” At Anees Bhai’s eatery in Bhopal, regular patron Meena Maran responds with a wager.
“ Whoever says you can get a meal for ` 12 or ` 5, bring him to Bhopal and show me where I can get such a meal. If he does so, I am prepared to do anything he wants me to.” Figures given out by the Planning Commission indicating a sharp fall in poverty levels since the UPA first came to power in 2004 based on a ` 33 per day cutoff for the urban poor — and ` 28 per day cutoff to judge the rural poor — are seen as a crude effort to bolster the UPA’s claim for a third term in office. As he was subjected to ridicule, Babbar backtracked.
But, both Babbar and Congress MP Rasheed Masood — who said that for ` 5 one can get a meal in the Jama Masjid area — in their anxiety to endorse the plan panel’s report have sparked a debate on how much it costs to have a full stomach in India.
MAIL TODAY reporters scoured the streets of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore and Bhopal for the cheapest meal in these cities and to see whether the two politicians had made absurd claims.
The result: The Congress leaders were given a thumbs down and told to get their facts right.
‘ How can one expect a full meal to cost ` 12 when a bottle of packaged drinking water costs ` 20?’
THE PRICE idea about the ground realities or food prices have come down drastically for a privileged few.
MAIL TODAY visited Delhi’s predominantly working class areas in east Delhi, north- east Delhi and outer Delhi, asking roadside vendors what would the cheapest meal cost.
These are the food outlets frequented by only those who cannot afford to spend on basic necessities.
The minimum money required to buy a plate of watery dal and a modest amount of chawal is not less than ` 20 in Khureji or Kalyanpuri.
While the food sellers at these places could not help laughing on hearing the unrealistic price quoted by the politicians, people eating here spoke of how the politicians must be talking about a bygone time.“ Money does not hold any value for them. That is why they are making fun of people like us. Do they know about the price of rice and flour? Do they have any idea how much it takes to run a food stall on the road side?” said Ramnath, a food vendor in the Ashok Nagar area of east Delhi. Ramnath sells a plate of rice and dal for ` 20.
Shyam, who eats there regularly, said, “ We can't expect tasty, fresh food items in such places. What we get for ` 20 is barely enough to satisfy our hunger.” Babu Lal, who hails from the Kalyanpuri area, sells a plate of chhole bhature and chole chawal at ` 15. His menu mentions a plate comprises three bhatures and chole. “ We had to reduce the price on public demand. Earlier, I used to sell two bhature and chole for ` 20, but many people opposed it. Now, I am selling it at ` 15. We just reduced the size of bhatura,” said Babu Lal.
— By Kumar Vikram
WHEN Congress MP Raj Babbar said that a wholesome meal in Mumbai could be available for ` 12, he was perhaps thinking about the city more than a decade ago. He probably does not know that even the canteen at the Maharashtra Pradesh Congress office at Tilak Bhavan in Parel serves a lunch thali for ` 75 and the Congress office in Gandhi Bhavan serves a thali for ` 40.
“ Getting a meal for ` 12 is not possible any more. You don’t even get a vada pav for ` 12,” said Mohammad Hussain, who runs the Asra restaurant in Kural West which is known for its cheap but good food. This is believed to be where Mumbai gets its cheapest meal. For ` 20, you can have a vegetable and three rotis. Chicken and three rotis or beef masala and roti costs ` 25 while a mutton masala , rice and two rotis cost ` 30. Rafiq Shah, a patron from Chembur, was clearly enjoying his chicken meal. “ This is the cheapest food you can get in this city. I don’t think you buy a meal for ` 12. May be the person who told you so should let us know and we will go there,” he said. Hussain said it was difficult for him to continue the present rate. He claims he is running the business for sentimental reasons — his father had started the restaurant over 50 years back.
There is barely a profit margin.
In fact, the restaurant will soon be demolished. “ It is becoming increasingly difficult to run a business when the prices of vegetables are rising,” he said.
— By Krishna Kumar
KOLKATA residents would not be faulted for believing that the city’s gastronomic delights contribute to making it the City of Joy. A vegetarian lunch of rice, dal, a mixed vegetable serving, salad and a slice of papad at a typical footpath eatery costs all of ` 15 only. Patrons say it is “ reasonably tasty and not- so- unhygienic”. Street vendor Sarada Naidu’s stall in the Chowringhee area caters to over 300 people a day. “ We start making arrangements at 6 am. The stall remains open between 9 am and 4 pm.” She said a steaming rice and dal plate is served to all customers.
“ We try to maintain the quality though the customers have a small budget,” she said.
Sarada claimed that she has been running her footpath stall for over 30 years.
Her clients are mainly taxi drivers, security guards, contract labourers, bus and car helpers, and scavengers. Footpath food stalls are located near Rabindra Sadan, Rashbehari Avenue, Esplanade, BBD Bag, Ultadanga and in areas adjoining Howrah and Sealdah railway stations.
However, meals do not cost the same, varying between ` 15 and ` 25 a plate. “ I pay ` 15 for lunch. This cannot be matched by any other city in India,” said Bikash Singh, a taxi driver in Kolkata.
— By Soudhriti Bhabani
THE CHEAPEST eateries in Bhopal are known by their owners — and among the better known is Anees Bhai’s Veg and Non- veg restaurant in Shahjehanabad locality of the old city, about 3 km from the chief minister’s bungalow.
“ My eating joint serves the cheapest range of vegetarian and non- vegetarian meals. I sell a rumali or tandoori roti for ` 3 and my half plate dal is served at ` 15.
So, a simple meal of dal and two rotis will cost about ` 20,” says Mohammed Anees who runs his eatery joint which is made of tin sheds and is supported by steady bamboo pillars.
He does not charge for the cucumber and sliced lemon, but has stopped serving onions because they have become very expensive.
Meena Maran, a regular was incredulous when asked if he could have a meal for ` 12 in the city. “ This is impossible. I have been a regular here for the last two years, and I spend at least ` 25 for the cheapest meal,” said an angry Maran.
— By Anup Dutta
PUTTA is a 28- year- old daily wage worker at the multi- storeyed building near Vidhana Soudha in central Bangalore. He needs to set aside ` 900 every month for his meals from ` 3,600 he earns every month because the average cost of a vegetarian plate meal sold by roadside eateries is about ` 35. The cheapest meals in the city are sold on the roadside by make- shift eateries, which set up mobile stalls near real estate construction sites and government offices and public places between noon and 3 pm every day.
Mahadev runs a roadside eatery near the Vidhana Soudha, serving over 400 customers every day. Many of them are daily wage workers, visitors from other cities, people in search of a livelihood and labourers.
He sells a vegetarian meal of one ragi ball ( staple diet in Karnataka), a plate of rice, a cup of rasam or sambar ( gravy curry) and papad or pickle for ` 35. Some roadside eateries have a non- vegetarian menu, but these cost twice that of vegetarian meals. Half a plate of chicken costs ` 35 while half a plate of lamb meat costs ` 50. According to him, the menu is priced at base value. “ The prices of commodities have shot up. Ragi flour costs ` 18 per kg and rice is sold at ` 52 per kg. Obviously, we cannot serve rice bought from PDS outlets because the quality is inferior. Vegetable prices have skyrocketed. Gone are the days of staple diet being available for ` 10 or ` 15,” he said.
“ We cannot offer a vegetarian meals for less than ` 30. We have to take into consideration the cost of cooking and ingredients and expenses on transport and staff,” said Mahadev.
— By Vanu Dev

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