Last week, the Planning Commission filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court updating the official poverty line to Rs 965 per month in urban areas and Rs 781 in rural areas. This works out to Rs 32 and and Rs 26 per day, respectively. The perceived inadequacy of these figures has led to widespread discussion and criticism in the media. In light of the controversy, it may be worth looking at where the numbers come from in the first place. Two Measures of the BPL Population The official poverty line is determined by the Planning Commission, on the basis of data provided by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO). NSSO data is based on a survey of consumer expenditure which takes place every five years.  The most recent Planning Commission poverty estimates are for the year 2004-05. In addition to Planning Commission efforts to determine the poverty line, the Ministry of Rural Development has conducted a BPL Census in 1992, 1997, 2002, and 2011 to identify poor households. The BPL Census is used to target families for assistance through various schemes of the central government. The 2011 BPL Census is being conducted along with a caste census, and is dubbed the Socio-Economic & Caste Census (SECC) 2011. Details on the methodology of SECC 2011 are available in this short Ministry of Rural Development circular. Planning Commission Methodology Rural and urban poverty lines were first defined in 1973-74 in terms of Per Capita Total Expenditure (PCTE). Consumption is measured in terms of a collection of goods and services known as reference Poverty Line Baskets (PLB). These PLB were determined separately for urban and rural areas and based on a per-day calorie intake of 2400 (rural) and 2100 (urban), each containing items such as food, clothing, fuel, rent, conveyance and entertainment, among others. The official poverty line is the national average expenditure per person incurred to obtain the goods in the PLB. Since 1973-74, prices for goods in the PLB have been periodically adjusted over time and across states to deduce the official poverty line. Uniform Reference Period (URP) vs Mixed Reference Period (MRP) Until 1993-94, consumption information collected by the NSSO was based on the Uniform Reference Period (URP), which measured consumption across a 30-day recall period. That is, survey respondents were asked about their consumption  in the previous 30 days. From 1999-2000 onwards, the NSSO switched to a method known as the Mixed Reference Period (MRP). The MRP measures consumption of five low-frequency items (clothing, footwear, durables, education and institutional health expenditure) over the previous year, and all other items over the previous 30 days. That is to say, for the five items, survey respondents are asked about consumption in the previous one year. For the remaining items, they are asked about consumption in the previous 30 days. Tendulkar Committee Report In 2009, the Tendulkar Committee Report suggested several changes to the way poverty is measured.  First, it recommended a shift away from basing the PLB in caloric intake and towards target nutritional outcomes instead. Second, it recommended that a uniform PLB be used for both rural and urban areas. In addition, it recommended a change in the way prices are adjusted, and called for an explicit provision in the PLB to account for private expenditure in health and education. For these reasons, the Tendulkar estimate of poverty for the years 1993-94 and 2004-05 is higher than the official estimate, regardless of whether one looks at URP or MRP figures. For example, while the official 1993-94 All-India poverty figure is 36% (URP), applying the Tendulkar methodology yields a rate of 45.3%. Similarly, the official 2004-05 poverty rate is 21.8% (MRP) or 27.5% (URP), while applying the the Tendulkar methodology brings the number to 37.2%. A Planning Commission table of poverty rates by state comparing the two methodologies by is available here.  

Yesterday, the Governor of Karnataka promulgated the Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Ordinance, 2022.  The Ordinance prohibits forced religious conversions.  A Bill with the same provisions as the Ordinance was passed by the Karnataka Legislative Assembly in December 2021.   The Bill was pending introduction in the Legislative Council. 

In the recent past, Haryana (2022), Madhya Pradesh (2021), and Uttar Pradesh (2021) have passed laws regulating religious conversions.  In this blog post, we discuss the key provisions of the Karnataka Ordinance and compare it with existing laws in other states (Table 2). 

What religious conversions does the Karnataka Ordinance prohibit?

The Ordinance prohibits forced religious conversions through misrepresentation, coercion, allurement, fraud, or the promise of marriage.  Any person who converts another person unlawfully will be penalised, and all offences will be cognizable and non-bailable.  Penalties for attempting to forcibly convert someone are highlighted in Table 1.  If an institution (such as an orphanage, old age home, or NGO) violates the provisions of the Ordinance, the persons in charge of the institution will be punished as per the provisions in Table 1.   

Table 1: Penalties for forced conversion 

Conversion of


Fine (in Rs)

Any person through specified means

3-5 years


Minor, woman, SC/ST, or a person of unsound mind

3-10 years 


Two or more persons (Mass conversion)

3-10 years 


Sources: Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Ordinance, 2022; PRS.

Re-converting to one’s immediate previous religion will not be considered a conversion under the Ordinance.   Further, any marriage done for the sole purpose of an unlawful conversion will be prohibited, unless the procedure for religious conversion is followed.  

How may one convert their religion?

As per the Ordinance, a person intending to convert their religion is required to send a declaration to the District Magistrate (DM), before and after a conversion ceremony takes place.  The pre-conversion declaration must be submitted by both parties (the person converting their religion, and the religious converter), at least 30 days in advance.  The Ordinance prescribes penalties for both parties for failing to follow procedure.

After receiving the pre-conversion declarations, the DM will notify the proposed religious conversion in public, and invite objections to the proposed conversion for a period of 30 days.  Once a public objection is recorded, the DM will order an enquiry to prove the cause, purpose, and genuine intent of the conversion.  If the enquiry finds that an offence has been committed, the DM may initiate criminal action against the convertor.  A similar procedure is specified for a post-conversion declaration (by the converted person).  

Note that among other states, only Uttar Pradesh requires a post-conversion declaration and a pre-conversion declaration.

After the religious conversion has taken place, the converted person must submit a post-conversion declaration to the DM, within 30 days of the conversion.  Further, the converted person must also appear before the DM to confirm their identity and the contents of the declaration.   If no complaints are received during this time, the DM will notify the conversion, and inform concerned authorities (employer, officials of various government departments, local government bodies, and heads of educational institutions).  

Who may file a complaint?

Similar to laws in other states, any person who has been unlawfully converted, or a person associated to them by blood, marriage, or adoption may file a complaint against an unlawful conversion.   Laws in Haryana and Madhya Pradesh allow certain people (those related by blood, adoption, custodianship, or marriage) to file complaints, after seeking permission from the Court.  Note that the Karnataka Ordinance allows colleagues (or any associated person) to file a complaint against an unlawful conversion.


*In Chirag Singhvi v. State of Rajasthan, the Rajasthan High Court framed guidelines to regulate religious conversions in the state.