India to carry out caste, creed, poverty census together (Second Lead)

May 19th, 2011 - 5:53 pm ICT by IANS  

Ambika Soni New Delhi, May 19 (IANS) The Indian government Thursday approved the carrying out of a survey to identify the number of people living below poverty line, as well as the head counts for various caste and religious groups.

“The union cabinet approved the conduct of BPL (below poverty line) census in rural and urban areas,” Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni told reporters here.

She added that the census on caste and religion will also take place “simultaneously”. The financial approval for conducting the survey is still in process.

For the first time ever, the BPL survey, which takes place every five years, will include urban households. The exercise will be carried out jointly by the ministries of rural development and housing and urban poverty alleviation, and the registrar general and census commissioner of India.

The previous BPL surveys were conducted in 1992, 1997 and 2002. The last one was supposed to have been conducted in 2007, but it could not be done due to a court case which vacated a stay only in 2006.

The survey is expected to begin June and will be wrapped up by December, officials said. Around 14 lakh enumerators and data collectors will be involved in the mammoth process.

For the first time, a low-cost tablet personal computer, manufactured by Bharat Electronics Limited, will be used by the enumerators to directly input the data which will be then uploaded into the database.

“The results of the BPL census would be utilized in the 12th Five Year Plan (2012-13 to 2016-17),” said Soni.

Census enumerators will distribute questionnaires regarding caste and religion asking just two questions to respondents: What is your caste and what is your religion?

For the BPL survey, the rural and urban population will have separate criteria. “The rural population will be divided into three categories. The first one is the exclusion category, by which they will be deemed to be removed from BPL list. Secondly, there will be automatic inclusion of some groups. The rest of the population will be ranked on the basis of seven deprivation indicators,” said Sanjay Kumar Rakesh, joint secretary in the rural development ministry.

The survey will be conducted by state government employees, from panchayat members to patwaris (revenue officials) and even workers under the rural employment guarantee act. “We cannot rope in teachers due to the Right to Education Act,” he said.

According to the government, the list of BPL families will be put up at the gram sabha (village council). “If there are any objections, there will be a final list which will also be in the public domain,” Rakesh said.

For the rural areas, Soni said that the survey will “by and large” follow the recommendations of N.C. Saxena committee in identifying the poor.

“A pilot survey was done based on the recommendations, which validated the parameters,” said Rakesh.

The minister said that at the end of the exercise, a special expert group will be sifting through the data.

Urban households will be classified as per three inclusion indicators, which are residential, social vulnerability and occupational vulnerability.

As per the officials, the information on BPL families will have to be made public, so that they can take take advantage of benefits. “But, the caste and religion will remain confidential and will be passed on to the registrar general,” he said.

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