States to ensure accuracy of caste census findings

The Centre has asked the state governments to take at least 45 days to settle the claims and objections on the draft findings of the Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC) and to ensure credibility of the data before those could be used to identify beneficiaries of the National Food Security Ordinance.

Amid the sudden rush to expedite the procedure for the early implementation of the ordinance in some states, the Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) has sent out missives to all the state governments, advising that the final findings of the Socio-Economic and Caste Census should be released at least one-and-a-half months after the publication of the drafts.

The MoRD’s move comes in response to the call from some state governments to expedite the settling process, so that the final data coming out of the SECC could be utilized to identify beneficiaries to be covered by the ordinance.

Some Congress-ruled states are keen to implement it at the earliest to ensure that the party could reap its political dividends ahead of the coming state Assembly elections as well as the 2014 parliamentary polls.

The missives noted that the state governments, who wanted to use the SECC data for implementation of the National Food Security Ordinance but had not yet started the process to settle the claims and objections, should ensure that the procedures meet the “minimum procedural standard of disclosure and validation”.

“The SECC data is meant for multiple users over an extended period of time and since such a high degree of accuracy and reliability of the data is essential, the process of validation through transparent disclosure and feedback has to be of an acceptable standard to ensure the credibility of the data,” N K Sahu, economic advisor for the MoRD, wrote to the state government officials.

“It has been represented by several state governments that the data collected under SECC would be required in the near future in connection with the implementation of the National Food Security Ordinance, whereas they are still at the stage of draft list publication of the survey results,” noted Sahu. “Accordingly, the state governments have sought guidance on accelerating the processes that deal with claims and objections,” he added.

Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh had on last May written to the chief ministers of several states that the process to settle the claims and objections on the draft findings of the SECC should take a maximum of 82 days. The latest circular from the MoRD had also retained the maximum time-frame of 82 days, but made it clear that the period between the publication of the draft and final findings of the SECC for each state should not be less than 45 days.

Although Ramesh in May wrote to the chief ministers of Karnataka and Gujarat that the SECC draft findings for the two states might be put in public domain by the end of August, sources said that it might not happen for any state before September. The government, however, will not make public the caste data collected during the exercise.

The National Food Security Ordinance was promulgated on July 5. The Congress-led UPA government is keen to get a bill passed by Parliament during the coming monsoon session in order to convert the ordinance into an act.

The SECC was launched in June 2011 and was initially expected to be complete by December 2011. The nationwide exercise was delayed by more than one-and-a-half years.

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