Census midway, has several firsts

Census midway, has several firsts

Headcount For the first time since 1931, caste figures in the questionnaire

The ongoing socio-economic and caste census in the State has reached midway and is all set to enter the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) limits this week.

The socio-economic census is held every five years with the technical and financial support of the Union Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD).

There are several firsts in the current census. For the first time since 1931, caste has figured in the questionnaire in a census conducted by the Central government. Besides, it has been extended beyond the rural boundaries to cover urban pockets. The State’s entire population of 6.11 crore will have to be covered by February-end, but the work may stretch up to March.

The nationwide exercise is being carried out with a view to ranking households based on their socio-economic status for each state, and to prepare a list of families living below the poverty line. Though caste details are collected, the focus is mainly on the socio-economic conditions of families.

There are provisions to mention religion, caste and sub-castes, but it is not mandatory for a respondent to mention all, or any of these. Under the religion column, three options are given: Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe and others. It is purely optional to respond to this column.

The census will identify below poverty line (BPL) households that can benefit from the Union government’s welfare schemes. The data collected will be used to identify the prospective beneficiaries under various schemes and programmes based on deprivations.

This will be done in consultation with experts and civil society organisations after arriving at a consensus on the methodology of targeting beneficiaries, officials involved in the census process said.

Centre, State at odds

Of late, Karnataka and the Centre have been at loggerheads over the number of BPL families in the State. While the Centre estimates that there are 32 lakh BPL families, the State’s count puts it at 92 lakh. States issuing BPL cards beyond the Centre’s estimates have to themselves bear the extra expenditure. As a result, the State government forks out Rs 100 crore per month in food grain subsidy because its numbers for BPL families far exceed the Centre’s estimate.

The census figures on poverty will provide us with a reality check this time around. The drive by the State food and civil supplies department to weed out bogus ration cards is also expected to be completed when the census results are out.

So far, about 32 lakh ration cards have been cancelled by linking them with RR numbers of electricity meters and property tax. Not just ration cards, even other benefits for the poor like the widow pension, old age pension, free education and scholarships to poor students, benefits under housing schemes and free health cover, etc, can be streamlined in case the State government goes by the fresh census data.

For Karnataka, data gathered from the census will have far-reaching implications. It will throw up, for the first time since Independence, the reality of the socio-economic status of communities.

The newly constituted Backward Classes Commission is awaiting the green signal from the government to take up a census of backward classes in the State, while the Justice A J Sadashiva Commission of Inquiry has completed caste census among the Scheduled Castes. The report is likely to be submitted to the government by April-end. The Commission was set up in 2005 and it has been actively functioning for the last couple of years.

In case of the Backward Classes Commission, the government will have to make a budgetary provision for allowing it to take a headcount of persons belonging to the backward classes, official sources said.

The last census of BCs was done in 1984 by the T Venkataswamy Commission. And in 1994, through a government order, the classification was notified and the same is valid even now.

Sources said that as the ongoing census would focus on the socio-economic status of the people, a separate census focusing mainly on caste will have to be taken up by the Commission. Successive governments have dragged their feet over door-to-door caste-based survey.

The Centre had sanctioned a caste-based survey for Karnataka in February 2005, and had even released Rs 21 crore for the model survey. However, no government was prepared to take it forward.

Hand-held tablets

During the last two months, since the launch of the socio-economic survey, as many as 33,000 enumerators have been visiting households with special low-cost hand-held PC tablets developed by the Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL). Data is directly fed into the tablets.

“By the end of February this year, the entire 6.11 crore citizens of the State will be covered (in the census). Among other things, in urban areas, the data will throw light on authorised and unauthorised slums. In rural areas, it is more about water and sanitation infrastructure facility availability,” says H Prakash, joint director, Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Department.

Anwar Pasha, IAS, who is with the RD&PR and functioning as a nodal officer for the census operation in the State, said it was not mandatory for people to give their sub-castes. “We are doing a scientific job. Our department has purchased 40,000 tablets. An enumerator covering four blocks each with 150 houses gets Rs 18,500, plus an assistant to handle the tablet.”

The job of the enumerators is made easy as preliminary data on households collected as part of the house-listing exercise for the decennial census-2011 held last year is preloaded into the tablet PCs, Prakash adds.

The current census is based on self-declaration model of the respondents. The enumerator would record the declaration of the respondents and wherever he finds that the response is prima facie incorrect, he would record the observation separately in the space provided in the enumeration form. The jurisdictional supervisor will have to compulsorily visit these houses and verify the veracity of the information.

The BBMP region will be a challenge ahead for the enumerators. The State capital alone has a population of 84.25 lakh, spread across 198 wards.

The National Informatics Centre (NIC) has developed a Management of Information System (MIS) for the management of the database of socio-economic census and caste and to facilitate its subsequent use by the Ministry of Rural Development, other ministries and state governments for their own requirements.

Phases and districts

Phase I (ongoing): Belgaum, Bagalkot, Bijapur, Dharwad, Haveri, Gadag, Uttara Kannada, Chitradurga, Davangere, Tumkur, Kolar, Chikkaballapur, Bangalore Rural, Ramanagara.
Phase II (recently launched): Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike, Bidar, Raichur, Koppal, Bellary, Gulbarga, Yadgir, Kodagu, Mysore, Chamarajnagara, Udupi, Chikmagalur, Mandya, Hassan and Dakshina Kannada.

The checklist

The socio-economic and caste census questionnaire has two versions -- one for residents of urban areas, and the other for those living in rural areas. In the section on caste and tribes, the questionnaire includes “no caste/tribe” option for those who do not wish to indicate their caste, or belong to religions without a caste system.

Questionnaire for rural areas has queries on material of wall of dwelling room, roof, employment and income characteristics, land owned, assets, among others.

In urban areas, the questionnaire asks questions about households owning a refrigerator, telephone, mobile, computer, laptop, motorised vehicles and a washing machine. Besides, details on amenities, including source of lighting, availability of drinking water source, drainage, and whether a separate room is used as kitchen.

Both urban and rural citizens will have to answer questions on details of property, assets, family members and ownership details, marital status, apart from questions on one’s education profile. Households without shelter, destitutes, primitive tribal groups and legally released bonded labourers will have the “highest priority” for inclusion in the BPL list. The enumerator provides an acknowledgement slip after gathering the census data.

Who are not BPL

Families which will not be considered as BPL in the current socio-economic and caste census:

*  Households with any member in the family earning more than Rs 10,000 per month
*  Owning motorised vehicles which require registration
*  Owning agricultural equipment such as tractor
*  Having kisan credit card with a credit limit of Rs 50,000 and above
*  With any member serving as govt employee
*  Paying income tax or professional tax
*  Owning refrigerator 
*  Owning landline phones
*  Having three or more rooms with pucca walls
*  Owning 2.5 acre or more irrigated land with at least one irrigation equipment
*  Five acres or more land irrigated for two or more crop seasons
*  Owning 7.5 acre or more land with at least one irrigation equipment