Government today indicated that there could be some changes in the criteria for the head count to identify the country’s poor.

The Union Cabinet had yesterday given its nod for conducting a census in rural and urban areas to identify those living below poverty line, including their caste and religion.

“Some fine tuning is required in certain criteria...If certain criteria require fine-tuning, we will consider them but there will be no major changes,” Rural Development Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh told a press conference here.

The minister’s remarks are significant as the government has finalised the methodology for this caste census after carrying out a pilot study on one lakh houses in 254 villages on the basis of seven national parameters.

At the press conference, Mr. Deshmukh and Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation Minister Kumari Selja gave details of methodologies of the controversial caste census.

Mr. Deshmukh said the BPL census figures will be linked to Unique Identification Authority of India in final phase but right now the government is just conducting a survey.

The minister said Gram Sabha will have a major role in it as the list of this census will be placed before the Gram Sabha of the region.

The ministers said that the enumeration of caste during this census, which is likely to begin by the month-end or the first week of July, will be based on “individual declaration” and persons concerned will not be asked to produce any certificate to prove their caste.

Officials of the Rural Development ministry said the caste claims of the persons being enumerated will not be subjected to public scrutiny.

They said the names of their castes will be noted down without questioning. They, however, downplayed the doubts about manipulation in such an exercise saying the states have mechanism to verify such claims in case of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

Ms. Selja said during the exercise being carried out jointly by both the ministries, the effort will be to avoid duplication of work. She said that the methodology to conduct a survey of urban poor based on residential, occupational and social vulnerabilities has already been finalised.

Asked whether there would by any cap on the number of BPL houses to be surveyed, Mr. Deshmukh said, “Today we are going to survey each household. The cap issue is pending with the Supreme Court and hence will come up before after the Supreme Court decides it...if there is a difference between the actual figure and the cap figure, it will be decided later on.”

This is the first time that the mammoth head count is being carried out to identify the poor along with their caste and religion. While the last BPL census was carried out in 2002, this is the first effort to carry out caste census since 1931.

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