About 27.6% of 377 million people living in urban India, or 104 million people, have been identified as poor, according to preliminary figures of the Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC).
While the poor in rural India have been identified several times since 1999, this is the first time the urban poor have been identified.
Started in 2011 by the UPA government, the SECC is being conducted to identify families falling below the poverty line (BPL) in urban and rural areas. It is expected to help the government better target the poor for its welfare schemes. For example, it will enable a homeless household to be targeted for a housing scheme, while an unemployed person can be targeted under a livelihood scheme. The survey was conducted by the housing and urban poverty alleviation ministry in urban areas, while the rural development ministry was conducting the house-to-house exercise in rural areas.
About 14.63 per cent of 17 million people living in Delhi have been identified as poor. Of all the states and union territories, Manipur (43.06%) has the maximum number of poor people living in urban areas followed by Bihar (41.4%), Tripura (40.75%), Odisha (39.4%) and Mizoram (37.9%).
Prior to this census, the erstwhile Planning Commission had accepted a report of an expert group headed by Suresh Tendulkar that estimated the urban poverty ratio at 25.7% based on consumption expenditure.
The SECC has used a three-stage process recommended by a panel headed by former Planning Commission member SR Hashim to identify the urban poor. These are — automatic exclusion, automatic inclusion and scoring index — all based on social, occupational and residential vulnerability.
For example, a family stands to be automatically included as ‘poor’ if it does not have a home, or any income, or if the household is headed by a female or physically challenged person.
Households having either a four-room house or in possession of any one of these assets — a four-wheeler, air conditioner and computer/laptop with Internet were automatically excluded.
The third criteria is a scoring index that gives households scores from 0 to 12 based on their vulnerabilities with a higher score signifying more deprivation. Households that score 0 are ineligible to be included in the BPL list.
The Union Cabinet needs to fix the cut-off score under which a household will be classified as ‘poor’. “The figures will go up marginally once the government decides up to what score a family will be included in the BPL list. We are going to the Cabinet soon to get the scoring list finalised,” said a housing and urban poverty alleviation ministry official.