NEW DELHI (AFP) - An extra 100 million Indians have been classed as poor by an expert panel that has redefined the country's poverty benchmark after a storm of protest, reports said on Monday.
The government-appointed panel estimated nearly 30 per cent of India's mammoth population - or 363 million people - were living in poverty in 2011-2012, after raising the poverty line proposed by the Planning Commission, the top economic planning body.
The experts' report, which was handed to the government last week, is expected to spark fresh debate in India where hundreds of millions of people still face a lack of food and housing.
The panel's conclusions were leaked to Indian media on Monday ahead of this week's budget, the first for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government which won a landslide victory in May on a pledge to revive the flagging economy and halt high inflation.
The previous government asked the panel, led by a former central bank governor, to review the figures following an outcry over the Planning Commission's threshold for poverty.
The commission's proposed level, revealed in 2011, defined those living on 27 rupees (56 Singapore cents) a day in villages and 33 rupees in cities as not being below the poverty level, sparking outrage from social activists who said it was not enough to survive on.
But the experts said those living on 32 rupees in villages and 47 rupees in cities should be considered as living on the poverty line, according to the Times of India and other newspapers.
The poverty line is used to help determine government welfare benefit entitlements.
The planning minister's office told AFP it had received the panel's report but would not reveal its findings.
According to the Press Trust of India news agency, the report says poverty hit 38.2 per cent of the population in 2009-10 and fell to 29.5 percent or 363 million people in 2011-12.
The Planning Commission, however, estimated poverty at 29.8 per cent in 2009-10, saying it declined to 21.9 per cent, or 270 million people, in 2011-2012.