India does first urban poverty survey

India does first urban poverty survey

According to the Ministry of Housing and Poverty Alleviation, the survey will be finished by December in all states and cover all urban households. The numbers will be out by the end of January 2012.

"It is for the first time that such a survey is being done. This is important in the context of the proposed food security act and the Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY) which aims to make cities free of slums besides better targeting of other schemes," a ministry official, who preferred not to be identified, told IANS.

An estimated 90 million of the 300 million living in India's roughly 45 cities and over 5,000 towns are poor, he said.

The Planning Commission, which makes official estimates of poverty, had told the Supreme Court this month that daily consumption expenses per head of Rs.20 in urban areas and Rs.15 in rural areas (at 2004-05 prices) was the poverty cut-off line.

"The figures will be useful for RAY which will be launched next month," the official said, adding the scheme for slum-free cities will have gained critical mass by January next year.
He added that the government had constituted a task force to monitor the progress of the urban BPL survey.

A meeting of chief secretaries and rural and urban housing secretaries has been called Tuesday to discuss the "modus operandi" of the survey and gear up the official machinery.

The union cabinet had May 19 approved BPL census in urban and rural areas along with the caste census.

The official said that a questionnaire has been prepared for ground staff which will carry out the survey and people will be identified on the basis of "definition of urban BPL" being finalised by the Hashim committee.

The Planning Commission had constituted an expert group under S.R. Hashim in May 2010 to recommend detailed methodology for identification of BPL families in urban areas in the context of the 12th Five Year Plan.

The expert group submitted an interim report this month recommending that poverty in urban areas be identified through idenitification of specific vulnerabilities in residential, occupational and social categories.

It said that those who are houseless, live in temporary houses where usage of dwelling space is susceptible to insecurity of tenure and is affected by lack of access to basic services should be considered residentially vulnerable.

Houses with people unemployed for a significant proportion of time or with irregular employment or whose work is subject to unsanitary or hazardous conditions or have no stability of payment for services should be regarded occupationally vulnerable.

Households headed by women or minors or where the elderly are dependent on the head of household or where the level of literacy is low or members are disabled or chronically ill should be considered socially vulnerable, it said.

The expert group is yet to finalise the detailed methodology for an ordinal ranking of the poor on the basis of vulnerability.

The MHUPA official said that the BPL survey will be done by staff of municipalities or urban departments in 45 major cities.

"In smaller towns, district magistrate will be the nodal officer," he said, adding the ministry will provide technical support to the states.

The rural development ministry is mandated to conduct BPL surveys every five years.
The official said the questionnaire prepared for urban BPL survey will obtain information on several parameters including income, number of members, type of house and availability of amenities.

"The survey will also give us information about housing shortage and deficiency in services in urban areas," he said.

Ministry officials said that states had been devising their own criteria to identify urban poor or had based their estimates on rural BPL survey and National Sample Survey Office data, but this did not provide a reliable picture.