MEETING OF FORUM FOR GROUP DISCUSSION ON ECONOMIC ISSUES

A meeting under the banner Forum for Group Discussion on Economic Issues (FGDEI) commenced on 22nd September 2013 in Dawat Nagar, Okhla, New Delhi. This forum has been formed by Sahulat Microfinance Society in association with Radiance Viewsweekly in order to deliberate upon issues relating to Islamic economics, finance and banking. This was the tenth meeting of the series. The meeting started on a welcome note delivered by Mr Azim Husssain, Senior Manager (Operations and Research), Sahulat Microfinance Society. Mr Abdullah M Farooqi delivered a presentation on the topic of "Understanding the Poverty Line and Debate on Present Estimate."

Mr Farooqi started his presentation with the historical estimation of poverty and the various committees. He further elaborated on the poverty line estimation method and the basis of the estimation. He went on to say that poverty line is an absolute measure of a relative concept which makes it a complex issue to discuss and debate. Poverty being a multidimensional concept cannot be reduced to consumption expenditure alone. With the current poverty line based on consumption expenditure, it didn't define the various aspects of poverty. He discussed how poverty line has been delinked from entitlements of the people of India. He mentioned that the 12th five year plan poised to follow the principle "programme-specific indicators for programme-specific entitlements." Programmes based on universal(as in MGNREGA, health, primary education, sanitation, mid-day meals, etc.) or deprivation-specific data(IAY etc) will address these issues properly e.g. the homeless will be the beneficiaries of IAY (Indra Awaas Yojna) and the disabled will get disability pensions, irrespective of whether or not they have a BPL card.

Dr Abu Zar Kamaluddin added to this as he mentioned that poverty alleviation can be done in two ways, one is through generating credit and the other is through generating employment. This way a sustainable environment is created whereby public sector and private sector can go hand in hand to alleviate poverty. The social intervention should be selective and should not be for all sections rather it should be limited to the aged, dependant, handicapped population. The rest of the population in his opinion should be empowered financially rather than provided with schemes etc.

Mr Arshad Ajmal pointed out that the debate is about whether there should be market intervention or state intervention in poverty alleviation and not merely about the estimation of poverty. He agreed that poverty line has to be delinked form entitlement and universalization should be there. There should be exclusion list for the tax payers and the rest of the population should universally be provided for through legislations like Right to Food etc. He mentioned that all questions have not yet been answered that poverty raises and the issue will be debated and deliberated further to have a concrete solution in place.

A detailed discussion also ensued regarding the concept of purchasing power parity (PPP) and Dr Waquar Anwar and Mr M.H Khatkhatay along with Mr Arshad Ajmal and Dr AbuZar Kamaluddin participated in the discussion.

Dr Abu Zar Kamaluddin in his concluding remarks pointed out that neither market forces nor government intervention alone could handle the complex issue of poverty. Both things need to be considered. Further he expressed hope about the legislations like Right to Food, Right to Education, and Right to Information etc. to have far reaching effects in revolutionising the Indian social landscape.

The meeting ended with vote of thanks by Mr Azim Hussain to all participants for their valuable presence and contribution.