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Moushumi Das Gupta, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, February 12, 2013
Are laptops a luxury for the urban poor in India? It's a question that the housing and urban poverty alleviation (HUPA) ministry is at present battling.

Carrying out the Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC) to identify households falling in the urban BPL (below poverty line) category, the ministry at present, excludes any household which possesses any of the following three assets - a four wheeler, an air conditioner, or a laptop - from the list.

However, the ministry is worried that with states such as Tamil Nadu doling out free laptops to over nine lakh students and others like Uttar Pradesh announcing similar scheme, many urban poor households now stand to be excluded from the BPL list.

It is now considering dropping laptop from the exclusion list.

"We will take a final call on this soon. Otherwise the census might not reflect the correct figure of urban BPL families," said a ministry official.

Ajay Maken, HUPA minister has also taken note of this dichotomy at a recent meeting to review the progress of the census. Maken indicated that he will take up the matter with the Planning Commission. 

The model for identifying urban poor households is based on the methodology recommended by a plan panel constituted committee. It had fixed a three stage process to identify the urban poor - automatic exclusion, automatic inclusion and a scoring index.

A family stands to be automatically excluded if it has either a four room house or possess any one of the asset (four wheeler, AC set, laptop) or any three of the following assets (fridge, landline phone, washing machine or a two wheeler.)