Govt to conduct BPL census next year

Govt to conduct BPL census next year

New Delhi: The decks seem to have been cleared for conducting the census to identify below poverty line (BPL) families with the ministry of rural development deciding to begin the survey next year.

In a crucial move, it has allowed the states to suggest criteria for identification to overcome the limitations of the “one-size-fits-all" approach.

After a meeting on Wednesday with the panel of experts set up by the ministry, it was decided to begin pilot projects soon and the main census in April 2011. The state governments will make suggestions and be allowed to add or drop a few indicators, said panel members who attended the meeting.

“We have decided to proceed by incorporating some of the suggestions that were made by the panel of experts. Also, state governments would be allowed to make their suggestions," said B.K. Sinha, secretary in the ministry of rural development. “We will first have pre-testing very soon, which would help us decide on the final parameters and see whether there should be state-wise variations."

Sinha, who chairs the committee, added that the idea to include states’ recommendations was to examine and overcome the drawbacks of a single approach.

BPL information forms the basis of various welfare programmes of the Union government, such as the public distribution system, the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (national health insurance scheme) and the Indira Awaas Yojana (a housing scheme for the rural poor), as well as various state government programmes.

Mint had reported on 4 March that the census—scheduled to begin in March this year—was likely to get deferred till April 2011.

“There was a meeting yesterday (Wednesday) and the ministry has decided to start pilot projects in a large number of districts to see what results are thrown up and accordingly firm up the principles for the identification of BPL households," said expert panel member N.C. Saxena, who had earlier chaired the committee and submitted its report on poverty estimates last year. “It has also been decided that states will be consulted. The main census will begin next year."

“The rich will be automatically excluded and the poorest will be automatically included," said Saxena, who attended Wednesday’s meeting. “Those who are left out from both these categories will then be graded on the basis of a survey and the poorest among them would then be included."

This methodology is in line with the recommendations of the Saxena panel report, which suggests a three-pronged approach: to identify those who are to be excluded, ensure that poor and vulnerable sections are automatically included, then grade these households and find out the poorest among them.

The pilot projects are expected to begin by July or August.