Plan panel's poverty line not to impact socio-economic census

Plan panel's poverty line not to impact socio-economic census

The Planning Commission informed the Supreme Court Tuesday that poverty line could be provisionally placed at around Rs.32 a day per capita in urban areas and Rs.26 in rural areas.

Manjula Krishnan, chief economic adviser in the minstry, said the data collection was not "a BPL survey" but an exercise for ranking poor rural households. The ranking would be based on exclusion and inclusion criteria and deprivation indicators, she added.

"We are not identifying Below Poverty Line (BPL)," Krishnan told IANS. "We are only collecting data. It will not be affected by (the Planning Commission's) poverty line cut-off."
The government had carried out  "BPL census" in  1992, 1997 and 2002 but decided to go for a socio-economic survey this year in the face of complaints of discrepancies in the earlier lists.

The socio-economic and caste survey (SECC) will also help the government identify beneficiaries for the proposed food security bill.

The socio-economic census started from Tripura in June this year.
Krishnan said rank listing of rural households will be given to state governments and they will use the Planning Commission's estimate of poverty to determine which households will be classified as BPL.

The widespread criticism of the poverty line cut-off, from political parties and civil society groups, has forced a rethink in the panel.

Rural development ministry officials said the Planning Commission may revise its poverty line cut-off by the time state governments classify households as BPL, upon the  completion of the socio-economic survey early next year.

"If the poverty cut-off is not revised by the Planning Commission, state governments are expected to take it up with the panel," a ministry official told IANS. "We will also take it up separately."

He hoped the state governments would have completed the exercise of identifying BPL families before the 12th five-year plan begins in March 2012.

Ministry officials said that the socio-economic survey was  "going a little behind schedule" as states had to make huge logistic efforts in terms of manpower and equipment.
However, they added, it may still be completed within the original timeline of December in most states.

They said the SECC in Sikkim would be delayed in view of the recent earthquake. Besides, Uttar Pradesh had conveyed that the state would carry out the census in February next year.

Several large states will carry out SECC in the next three months, the officials added.
Ministry officials said care had been taken to ensure accuracy of data and independent agencies will be involved in the task.

The data is being collected on hand-held device to ensure greater accuracy and faster processing.

The socio-economic survey has seven deprivation indicators, apart from automatic inclusion and exclusion criteria.

The deprivation indicators -- each of which has been given equal weightage in calculating inclusion priority -- include households with only one room with "kutcha walls and kutcha roof", households with no adult member between 16 and 59, female-headed households with no adult member between age 16 and 59, households with any disabled member and no able-bodied adult member, Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe households, households with no literate adult above 25 years and landless households deriving the major part of their income from manual casual labour.