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States slow on poverty census, deadline expires

delhi Updated: Apr 24, 2012 02:15 IST
Prasad Nichenametla
Prasad Nichenametla
Hindustan Times
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Uttar Pradesh, which supposedly has a high proportion of the country's poor, has not begun the job of enumerating them even three-and-a-half months after the first deadline set by the Centre lapsed.

The project started in June 2011, with the target of completing the job by the end of 2011. The Centre then extended the deadline to April.

Bihar has covered just 0.1% of the population. While there is no word from Tamil Nadu, Kerala is said to have just begun.

In states where enumeration began months ago, the survey apparently is stuck. Odisha has covered 12% of the population, West Bengal a little better at 18%.

While in Maharashtra the coverage has been 42%, in others it is between 50 and 100%.

This is the first census to identify the poor and caste affiliations of the people in the country, which will be an important input in the proposed right-to-food legislation.

"With the last such survey carried out in 2002, a fresh list was due in 2007. But with some states not beginning till now and others stuck, I do not think we will have the enumeration results before December 2013. States may be fearing that the survey will show a reduced number of the poor (affecting their demand for grants, etc)," NC Saxena, former IAS and National Advisory Council member, told HT.

Union minister for rural development Jairam Ramesh has been writing to the states, asking them to expedite the process, but to no avail.

"Only about 18% of the population is covered. At this rate we expect the process in West Bengal to be completed only by the end of July," Ramesh said in his letter to chief minister Mamata Banerjee last week.

A senior official of the Bihar government told HT on the phone: "Unlike other states Bihar is entirely dependent on central support for foodgrains, etc. So it is very important for us to be cautious as to how to go about the survey. Anyway, we are trying to get the survey running by month end."

The government is spending Rs. 3,500 crore on this.

In the absence of survey numbers, the Planning Commission's poverty estimates are based on expenditure.