The Household Consumption Expenditure Survey, which came out after more than ten years, is an “election-inspired” document released by the Centre ahead of the Lok Sabha polls this year, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge said on Tuesday.

The Congress also accused the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government of destroying the credibility of India’s economic data.

On February 24, the National Sample Survey Office released the findings of the survey done between August 2022 and July 2023.

Citing the survey, chief executive officer of the Centre’s think tank Niti Aayog BVR Subrahmanyam said that less than 5% of Indians are now expected to be below the poverty line, and extreme destitution has nearly gone away.

A person who lives on a monthly expenditure of Rs 1,000 or less in cities and Rs 816 or less in villages, at 2011-’12 prices is poor, as per the poverty line determined by an Expert Group headed by economist Suresh Tendulkar in 2011.

The survey also said that the difference between the average monthly per capita consumption expenditure between rural and urban households has come down to 71.2% in 2022-’23 compared with 83.9% in 2011-’12. The bottom 5% of India’s rural population, has an average monthly expenditure Rs 1,373 while it is Rs 2,001 for the same category of population in the urban areas.

On Tuesday, Kharge said that the “election-inspired” survey was released after the BJP government was “asleep at the wheel” for ten years.

“If everything in the country is so shiny, as is being shown in the survey, then why do the poorest 5% of rural India, that is about 7 crore people, spend only Rs 46 daily?” Kharge asked in a tweet.

Congress spokesperson Supriya Shrinate remarked at a press conference that when any government manipulates economic data, its effect can be seen in the levels of investment. She said that foreign direct investment in India has been falling for the past three years and is at its lowest in 16 years.

“If only 7 crore people are below the poverty line in the country, why do 81 crore people of the country have to be given free ration?” she asked. “Why do 35 crore people of the country have no means of transportation and 45 crore people do not have TV?”

The party says that the data has also revealed the widening gap between the poor and the rich.

“If the richest 5% living in the village spend Rs 350 every day, then the poorest 5% spend Rs 46,” Shrinate said. “While the richest 5% of the city spend Rs 700, the poorest spend an average of Rs 67.”

The survey, which is usually conducted every five years, was released on February 24 for the first time after 2011-’12. The Centre had not released data for the 2017-’18 survey, conducted soon after demonetisation and the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax, citing concerns about quality.