Page last updated at 13:03 GMT, Friday, 21 August 2009 14:03 UK

More Indians in 'extreme poverty'

India poor children
The government's food spend is expected to rise

At least 38% of Indians live in extreme poverty, according to a new report by a government committee.

The committee, headed by economist SD Tendulkar, considered education, health and sanitation indicators to arrive at the new figure.

The figure is more than 10% higher than the current official poverty estimate of 27.5%.

If the new estimate is accepted, government spending to alleviate poverty may have to greatly increase.

Since 1972, poverty has been defined on the basis of the money required to buy food worth 2,100 calories in urban areas and 2,400 calories in rural areas.

According to the current estimates, the number of poor in India is approximately 297 million.

The new estimate will classify an additional 110 million people as living in poverty, says the BBC Hindi service's Shyam Sundar.

This would mean the government will have to spend an additional $1.9bn on ensuring food security to the poor, our correspondent adds.

In the last four years, the Indian government has spent $31.19bn on poverty alleviation schemes.

Poverty figures and the methods of compiling them are mired in controversy in India.

A report by India's rural development ministry earlier this year said at least half of Indian population lived in poverty.

Another report in 2007 estimated the number of poor at 77% of the total population.

The Indian government has not accepted the two reports.

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