As the socio-economic indicators that will define the “poor” are still being identified, Union Minister for Social Justice & Empowerment Kumari Selja has made a suggestion that all scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, single women and disabled headed households, and denotified, nomadic and semi-nomadic tribes should automatically be included in the “poor” category, provided they are not income tax payers.

The Minister has also sought the immediate implementation of poverty alleviation programmes for these target groups. In a letter to Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, the Minister has said since the social economic caste census (SECC)-11 would take some more time to complete and the poverty alleviation programmes are being implemented on the basis of the previous SECC, the criteria can be applied to these groups without having to wait for the SECC-11 to conclude.

Ms. Selja has also written to the Union Minister for Housing & Poverty Alleviation Girija Vyas and the Union Minister for Rural Development Jairam Ramesh suggesting that these target groups be automatically included in the poor category, with the exception of those who are salaried or income tax assesses.

While the Ministries of HUPA and Rural Development are in the process of finalising the inclusion, exclusion and grading criteria for the proper identification of the poor for support under various poverty alleviation programmes, the SJ&E Minister is keen to have her Ministry’s participation in the process, pointing out that most of the poor belong to the target groups that come under her Ministry.

Prof. Amitabh Kundu, Professor of Economics at the Centre for the Study of Regional Development and Dean of the School of Social Sciences at Jawaharlal Nehru University, said there should be more focus on “inclusion” of the target groups in the welfare schemes. “There are errors of inclusion, but there are also errors of exclusion; and it is more desirable to include than to exclude. The disabled and single women headed households can be easily included in the schemes. As for identifying the rightful beneficiaries [from the reserved categories, including the disabled and single women headed households] there are various ways of doing so other than relying on income tax assessment. For instance there is an easier way to assess the eligibility based on ownership of a private vehicle or a luxury item or even a three bedroom house,” he said.

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