India will finally count its urban poor. The government will this week clear a census to put a number to the people living on the margins in cities and towns.
The rural poor have been counted on four occasions. But those in urban India had so far got left out. Planners instead relied on estimates.
The last one by the planning commission — based on the Suresh Tendulkar committee report — concluded that 25.7% or every fourth person living in urban India was poor. It is an estimate that has already been junked by the housing & urban poverty alleviation ministry.
“A clear number would tell us a lot about the gap that needs to be bridged. Say if the census throws up a figure of 40 million poor in a city which was getting subsidized grains for only 20 million, there will be a case for doubling supply of grains to cover the other half,” explained an official at the ministry.To help save resources and manpower, the urban poor headcount will be clubbed with the caste and rural BPL census.
Government officials said the census could not have come at a better time. This year will see a shift in the government’s social sector initiatives that have for decades focused on the rural poor. The proposed right to food law will cover the urban poor as well. Rajiv Awas Yojana, which promises houses to slum-dwellers, is also expected to get off the ground this year.
“This is where the need for an exact head count has become crucial,” a senior official told HT.