Experts questioned the authenticity and robustness of the new socio-economic census released on Friday, saying the data was neither validated nor discussed at the village level.
They also feared states could interpret the deprivation index as per their convenience, leaving the data at the national level facetious.
Former Planning Commission secretary NC Saxena, who was involved in past efforts to formulate the criteria for identifying the poor, said one-thirds of the really poor were not included in the list when a similar exercise was conducted in 2002.
“No objections were invited and no open house at the village level was done. It raises (an) issue over (the) robustness of the data collected,” said Biraj Patnaik of the Right To Food campaign.
Already, activists have cited an anomaly in the census data.
Saxena said as per the census there were 16.50 lakh households in rural India living in abject poverty (destitute, those without homes, beggars and primitive tribal groups) but the government was providing enhanced subsidised food under the Antodaya scheme to about 20 lakh households.
According to estimates by activists based on the social sector services provided by the government there should had been least 2.5 crore households under the category of most vulnerable.
Patnaik also said the census could pose a problem for mapping urban poverty as it failed to take into account the migrating communities. The 2002 below poverty line census had migration as a parameter to identify poverty.
Rural development minister Birendra Singh, however, said the SECC was “very authentic” as about 96 lakh objections about the criteria were received which had been rectified.
“We have corrected at least 97% of the faults pointed out,” Singh said.
More objections could be raised in the coming months as research begins into the data.
The erstwhile Planning Commission, which has been replaced by the NITI Aayog, had found several anomalies in the last BPL census conducted during the last NDA regime, including the fact that half of the population in some urban areas had been identified as poor.