States asked to prepare BPL list by March

The Union government on Monday asked the States to prepare a below poverty line (BPL) list by March, census for which is now on, so that the needy are readied to enjoy the benefits to be rolled out under the 12{+t}{+h}Five Year Plan.

Union Minister for Rural Development Jairam Ramesh hoped the States would prepare the list at the earliest. The Centre would, by December-end, complete its exercise of generating a rank listing of rural households based on the decided exclusion and inclusion criteria.

Admitting that there was difference of opinion regarding the criteria fixed by the Centre, Mr. Ramesh categorically stated that both the 13 exclusion and five inclusion criteria were non-negotiable. But he was willing to consider giving additional weightage to some of the seven deprivation indicators, all of which are on an even keel as of now.

The Centre was being criticised for allegedly taking artificially low poverty systems while the States were keen to project higher levels of poverty for higher inflow of funds. The States were required to use the Planning Commission's macro estimates of poverty and apply it with the rank list of rural households to be provided by the Centre.

In a bid to sort out these differences, an advisory committee under Abhijit Sen was set up. It would meet on August 16 to decide on the robustness of the exclusion and inclusion criteria. Leading sociologists, economists and civil right activists were its members.

To ensure proper enumeration, local representatives of the gram panchayat and gram sabha would accompany the census teams and serve as witnesses for greater transparency so as to ensure that the needy got included.

In case of any malpractice or misreporting, a summary enquiry would be conducted to avoid the shortcomings of the 2002 BPL census.

National Advisory Council member N.C. Saxena demanded that responsibility and accountability be fixed regarding misreporting so as to ensure that the information recorded was authentic and to avoid any error in the application of the exclusion criteria, as it would amount to excluding those who needed to be included in the BPL list.

Mr. Ramesh said various institutions would be drawn into the process of making visits to villages and make a study of the enumeration process and point out any glaring errors and bias. The census report would be pasted at the gram sabhas for verification.

The Minister also intends to use their services to revisit the practice of conducting concurrent evaluations every quarter, as was done in the 1980s. They will be required to assess programmes like the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna, the Indira Awas Yojna and the Integrated Watershed Management Programme.

Sending national-level monitors or appointing ombudsman to monitor these programmes, he maintained, would not actually yield the desired results.

  • Centre will complete rank listing of rural households by year-end
  • Gram sabhas, gram panchayats will accompany census teams to ensure greater transparency

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