Food security scheme will have to wait for delayed BPL survey

The all-crucial Below the Poverty Line (BPL) survey will not be completed ahead of the start of the 12{+t}{+h}Five-Year Plan and consequently the execution of the promised food security entitlement, for which the government intends passing legislation in the coming Parliament session, will suffer.

Following a review meeting with officials of all States here on Friday, Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh admitted that the deadline for conducting the Socio Economic Caste Census (SECC) would be missed.

Only a handful of States are expected to complete the enumeration by the December 31 time limit. The States were expected to prepare the BPL list before March so that specific entitlements to be received by rural households under various Central government schemes could be decided.

Only Tripura and Punjab are expected to complete enumeration by November-end, while Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh have promised to complete the task by year-end. Most others were lagging way behind.

While Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Uttarakhand propose to finish the SECC by January, Assam, Haryana, Karnataka, and Gujarat have revised their deadlines to February. Orissa and Maharashtra, preoccupied with local elections, expect to complete the work by April-end.

The biggest problem, according to Mr. Ramesh, is Uttar Pradesh which intends starting the process in February and completing it in April. But that will depend on when the Assembly polls are held. If the elections are conducted early, the SECC count would start only after that, Mr. Ramesh admitted.

Apart from local and general elections, a problem confronting the enumeration process is non-availability of the hand-held device (HHD) in required numbers. The Bharat Electronics Limited failed to meet the deadline for supplying six lakh pieces for electronic recording of the census data. While it agreed to provide 6,000 units a day, BEL never supplied more than 4,500.

Dissatisfied, Mr. Ramesh a week ago got in touch with a private player for supply of one lakh units of Aakash — a tablet computer considered to be among the cheapest in the market.

But getting wind of this development, the BEL rushed to the Ministry on Friday, promising to deliver 8,000 HHD units a day. Mr. Ramesh admitted that the government would have to wait for the census to be completed before formulating the 12 {+t} {+h} Plan figures of beneficiaries and the expenditure thereof.

He, however, maintained that the best possible course would be to adhere to well-defined exclusion criteria and then extend all welfare schemes and entitlements to the rest who met even one of the inclusion criteria.

The best designed survey would exclude at least 20-25 per cent of the BPL families if one were to go by the inclusion criteria, which, he said, would not be the most sagacious political line to adopt.

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