Reconsidering its earlier decision, the United Progressive Alliance government is now contemplating not to give direct inclusion to all members of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities in the proposed BPL list if one goes by the modalities being laid out for conducting the census.
Their inclusion will now be based on their ranking obtained from the number of deprivation indicators they satisfy. Similarly, minorities too don't get the same kind of importance that the Centre had initially intended to give the community.
Only six categories of people will be compulsorily included in the BPL list, until, of course, the exclusion criteria is applied to them. The six category of households which will stand to benefit are the designated primitive tribal groups, most discriminated SC groups called Mahadalit groups where so identified by the State, female headed households with no adult male member, minor head of households with no adult member, destitute households which are dependent predominantly on alms for survival, and households that are homeless or with no homestead land.
The Centre has modified the N.C.Saxena committee recommendations in the light of the pilot project it carried out in 254 villages cross the country testing its efficacy in listing the BPL households and following the demands made by several groups, said Union Rural Development Ministry B.K.Sinha.
The danger of including all the SC and ST category households was the threat of other groups of more deprived sections being elbowed out, contended Mr. Sinha, who regarded the adopted course as the best option.
Moreover, the government doesn't want to defy the poverty cap suggested by the Tendulkar committee. Planning Commission Member Mihir Shah has in his proposal accepted the separate caps suggested by the committee for different States to avoid any controversy. The recommended poverty cap at the national level is 42 percent of the rural population.
The six compulsorily included categories will account for about 3 percent to 4 percent of the BPL population.
While one section will be subjected to the automatic exclusion criteria, others will have to come good on the scoring formula, which has been so formulated as to rank the villages on a poverty scale giving preference to those which are ranked as the most deprived villages.
As per the exclusion criteria at least 28 per cent of the rural population is expected to be placed in the relative will-being status. Households placed in this category are those owning 2.5 acres of irrigated land, two-wheelers, mechanised agricultural equipment, government employment, or with a monthly salary of over Rs. 10000, paying income tax, having a three room house with pucca walls and roof, refrigerator and landline phones.
The remaining households will then be ranked depending on the number of deprivation indicators they satisfy and these include being part of the SC/ST households, households with only one room with kucha wall and roof, with no literate adult above 25 years of age and households headed by landless agricultural labourer deriving the major part of income from agricultural labour.
In a bid to lend flexibility to capture poverty in a specific State, the Planning Commission seeks to allow the States to include three specific indicators which they consider necessary to prioritise households for targeting.
These deprivations will be added varying from a minimum 0 to maximum 7 listing the order of priority in the BPL list from the largest number of deprivations to smallest number of deprivations. The deprivation cut-off will be so chosen that the total percentage of households will be less than the prescribed cut-off poverty ratio. The objective was to suggest a sound methodology to identify the BPL population and it would be upto the government to suggest the cut off line to suite the needs of specific social welfare schemes, Mr. Shah explained.
For example, in the case of the proposed food security law, the government, if it so desires, could take a call to benefit an extra 10 per cent population in excess of the Tendulkar poverty cap, explained Mr. Shah.
Mr. Shah has sent his proposal to Planning Committee Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia for approval, which the Ministry of Rural Development will, in all probability, accept. The Ministry has sent its draft proposal to all authorities concerned, including 30 Union Ministries out of which 12 have responded so far.
According to Mr. Sinha the proposed methodology will bring under the target group at least 75 to 80 percent of the BPL population.
The Ministry will prepare the cabinet note soon with the objective of taking up the census exercise perhaps after the monsoons retrieve. The exercise is likely to entail a cost of about Rs. 1,000 crore.
For the first time the census will be conducted electronically with the help of laptops, doing away the paper form to avoid discrepancies.