Monday, 23 May 2011

POVERTY: India: fixing the "Below the Poverty Line"

K Balchand
The Below the Poverty Line (BPL) census, approved by the Union Cabinet on Thursday, will be an exercise in identifying households that will fit the bill within the poverty cap of 46 per cent of the rural population of India.

The identification of the 46 per cent poverty cap, estimated by the Planning Commission, will be done through a set of automatic exclusion and automatic inclusion criteria, and the remaining households will be classified through seven assigned deprivation indicators.
At the same time, State-wise caps based on the S.D. Tendulkar methodology have been allowed for better targeting of those living below the poverty line.
The 46 per cent cap is lower than the 50 per cent suggested by the N.C. Saxena Committee. Officials have remained silent on the displeasure of the Supreme Court on placing a cap on the BPL list.
The same process will be adopted for the urban population as well, but the poverty cap to qualify for social benefits during the 12th Five Year Plan will be decided later by the Planning Commission and the Union government.
Union Rural Development Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh said the headcount would start on June 30 and be completed by December as per the criteria decided.
With the modifications of the Saxena Committee recommendations, the preferential treatment to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes has been scaled down, while Muslims have been left out of this treatment.

Exclusion criteria
At least 28 per cent of rural households is likely to be excluded under the automatic exclusion criteria, which includes owning at least one two-wheeler; a fishing board; three-wheeler mechanised agricultural equipment; a kisan credit card with a limit of Rs. 50,000; 2.5 acre irrigated land with one irrigation equipment; having government employment; earnings of more than Rs.10,000 per month; and paying income tax.
At least three-four per cent of the households will be compulsorily included under the five automatic inclusion criteria, according to Rural Development Secretary B.K. Sinha.
The Ministry has accepted four suggestions from the Saxena Committee and one from the National Advisory Council (NAC) headed by Sonia Gandhi — households without shelter; the destitute or those living on alms; primitive tribal groups; legally released bonded labourers; and manual scavengers.
The rest will have to satisfy the seven other deprivation indicators on a scale from a minimum to seven, where the order of priority in the BPL list will be from the largest number of deprivations to the smallest number of deprivations.
These factors are: households with only one room with kucha walls and roof; households with no adult member between 16 and 59 years of age; female-headed household with no adult male; households with a disabled member; households with no able-bodied adult member; SC and ST households with no literate adult above 25 years of age; and landless households deriving a major part of their income from manual casual labour.
The enumeration will be conducted electronically by a team of two members including a computer data entry operator. The computer will be loaded with the scanned national population register data and the enumerator will only be required to enter the caste or religion of the household for the caste census.
For the BPL census, household information will be elicited through a question-answer process where the incumbent will be required to confirm or deny the information. After completion of the process, the answers will be read out and an acknowledgment slip issued to the household.
While the information related to caste and religion will be loaded into the central server and passed on to the Registrar-General of India for statistical processing, this information will not be placed in public domain. Information relating to households will be displaced later at the gram sabhas for public verification.
The Ministry has placed an order for six lakh pieces of such equipment, each of which costs Rs. 3,900, and the equipment will be given to the gram panchayats after use. All the information will be UID compatible.

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