To check ‘political’ pressure for special status, the Planning Commission has devised new deprivation norms based on census data to allocate funds for poorest panchayats of India in the 12 plan (2012-17).
Chief ministers of Bihar Nitish Kumar and West Bengal Mamata Banerjee have been demanding special status for their states on the grounds of backwardness. The Centre had announced special packages for Bundelkhand and Vidarbha on political demand, rather than any norms. "Giving money to states on ad-hoc basis has been futile," said plan panel member Mihir Shah.
To end this, the panel has identified blocks (a group of panchayats) depending on the level of deprivation and multi-dimensional poverty. Instead, of the National Sample Survey Office data used to estimate poverty in India, the plan panel has taken census data of 2011 into consideration to list these blocks. "The advantage of census data is that it covers all households whereas NSS is a sample survey," a panel official said.
Unlike the controversial Tendulkar Committee methodology to estimate poverty in India, the panel has used a bigger basket of aggregates to identify the poor. Apart from daily consumption, school and health centre employed by Tendulkar, the panel has identified the blocks on indicators such as transport connectivity, electricity, communication, irrigation, banking facility and social status of local population taken from the Census. "Blocks having higher concentration of scheduled castes (SC), scheduled tribes (ST) and other backward classes (OBCs) were listed higher on the deprivation index," an official explained.
The index is based on the premise that deprivation levels are highest among STs followed by SCs and OBCs especially in flood-prone areas. It also has two other elements — availability of irrigation and whether the area is flood-prone or not.