Social schemes: govt may set up panel

The new committee will “determine the poverty line and the cutoff”, Ramesh said
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First Published: Tue, Nov 20 2012. 11 17 PM IST
The panel will be relevant for (programmes such as) the food security Bill and pension programmes, Ramesh said. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/ Mint
The panel will be relevant for (programmes such as) the food security Bill and pension programmes, Ramesh said. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/ Mint
New Delhi: In what could delay the implementation of several welfare schemes including the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance’s (UPA) proposed food security Bill, the government is looking at setting up a new committee to determine the eligible beneficiaries.
The committee “will be appointed soon,” rural development minister Jairam Ramesh said on Tuesday without giving any timeline though it is expected to be set up after the government completes the Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) that aims to determine the caste-wise population of the country and the people living in poverty in both rural and urban areas.
The SECC, launched last June, is to be completed by 1 April, 2013, Ramesh said. It aims to objectively rank households based on their socio-economic status that would in turn help better targeting of government schemes to their rightful beneficiaries.
The proposed committee is different from the panel set up under the chairmanship of C. Rangarajan, who heads Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s economic advisory council, in May this year. This committee has been tasked with reviewing the way poverty is estimated and examine whether the poverty line should be fixed solely in terms of a consumption basket.
The new committee will “determine the poverty line and the cutoff” Ramesh said. “This will be relevant for (programmes such as) the food security Bill and pension programmes” Ramesh said referring to the possible criteria that will determine the number of people expected to be deemed eligible to access benefits under programmes such as the proposed food security Bill and government pensions scheme.
“Where the poverty line will be drawn that we have not decided. What we have said is that it will not be on Tendulkar’s line,” Ramesh said referring to an expert group headed by eminent economist and former chief of the National Statistical Organisation, the late Suresh Tendulkar, that presented its report in 2009.
The Tendulkar Committee report was based on a new methodology for estimating poverty defined on a wider access to commodities, and services such as health, sanitation and education and steering away from the calorie norm set in
1973-74. Thus calculated, 37.2% of rural and urban people in India were under the poverty line in India, according to the Tendulkar committee report available on the Planning Commission website.
A poverty estimate released by the Planning Commission in March showed India almost doubled the pace at which it reduced poverty in the five years to 2009-10, moving 52 million people above the poverty line.
However, the Planning Commission’s new poverty estimates, which drew the poverty line for rural India at Rs.22.40 per day and Rs.28.60 for urban India, invited sharp criticism from the opposition, activists and non-governmental organisations alike.
N.C. Saxena, former rural development secretary, expressed doubts about the kind of the data that would be gathered by the SECC given that it is using the census methodology.
“The people questioned can give faulty answers when they come to know what the census is for and its advantages are. So a committee set up to look into such data and determine the beneficiaries is unlikely to help channel government programmes to the needy,” Saxena said.
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First Published: Tue, Nov 20 2012. 11 17 PM IST
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