Indian media: Steep decline in poverty levels

File photo of a girl begging on a busy street in Mumbai, India, on 21 Sept 2011
Image caption The government says the number of poor has shrunk in India in recent years

Media are discussing a government report which shows a steep decline in India's poverty levels over recent years.

The number of people living below the poverty line has shrunk to 21.9% in 2011-12 from 37.2% in 2004-05, latest figures from India's Planning Commission say.

"One theory is that this is the outcome of the trickle-down impact of the record growth witnessed in the first decade of the new millennium," says Hindustan Times.

The report has triggered a debate about the method used for calculating the figures with the paper saying that "in just a day, 138 million Indians lost their poor status tag".

"The Commission said the decline in poverty is mainly on account of rising real per capita consumption figures," the India Today website says.

"The estimates were based on the controversial Suresh Tendulkar methodology that had evoked sharp criticism from civil society", Business Standard adds.

According to Mr Tendulkar, anyone who lives on less than 55 cents in urban areas and less than 45 cents in the villages is counted as poor - figures that critics have called "unrealistic".

However, the Planning Commission has defended the figures as realistic, the report adds.

The papers are also discussing "a renewed commitment" by Delhi and Washington to take forward a civilian nuclear deal signed between the two countries in 2008 after the visiting US Vice-President Joe Biden met Indian PM Manmohan Singh on Tuesday.

The two agreed to "fast-track civil nuclear cooperation amid indications that an early works agreement for building a nuclear power plant at Mithivirdi in Gujarat could be inked during Singh's visit to Washington in September", Deccan Herald reports.

The move is being "looked upon by many also as an attempt to impart fresh momentum to ties", The Times of India says.

Free meals discontinued

Meanwhile, reports say a hotline between the Indian and Chinese armies has been proposed to maintain peace along their disputed border.

The proposal was discussed when representatives from the two sides met on Tuesday, reports Deccan Herald.

Alleged "incursions" by Chinese troops across a cease-fire line in the disputed Ladakh region have often marred relations between the neighbours, which went to war in 1962.

Moving on to domestic news, the eastern state of Bihar has discontinued free meals in more than 600 schools after 23 children died last week from eating food tainted with pesticide, The Indian Express reports.

The free meals are part of the government-run Mid-Day Meal scheme which covers over 71,000 schools in the state.

In other news, Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt has exhausted his "final legal option" after the Supreme Court turned down a plea to reconsider his conviction in a case related to the illegal possession of arms, The Hindu reports.

Dutt, who is lodged in a jail in the western city of Pune, will now have to complete his five-year sentence.

And finally, India is banking on a new line-up of players for the five-match One-Day International cricket series in Zimbabwe, reports The Times of India.

The Indian cricket team is going into the series after recent successes at the Champions Trophy in England and a tri-nation series in the West Indies.

"The Champions Trophy winners have been busy recently and (coach) Fletcher will use the limited-overs series against lowly ranked Zimbabwe to allow some new players to stake their claims," the paper says.

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