A new poverty figure thrown up by the socio-economic and caste census is sure to keep alive the debate over methodologies used in the estimation of just how many rural people are poor.
According to the socio-economic census 2011, 31.26% rural Indians were poor while the Rangarajan panel pegged the number at 30.9% in 2014. The key differentiator between the methodologies deployed by the two is that the census estimated poverty based on landed assets and income whereas the Rangarajan panel took into account government surveys on consumption expenditure towards food, transport, education and health.
The census based on door-to-door visits by data collectors could be more reliable than surveys limited to a fixed sample size. There is no similarity between the two,” said former Planning Commission member Abhijit Sen, a member of the Rangarajan panel as well as the one to evaluate census data. “The census ranks households on different deprivation indicators to help in the implementation of schemes whereas the poverty line is an academic exercise to measure the impact of development,” Sen said.
The Rangarajan panel was constituted in the wake of a controversy generated by the Suresh Tendulkar methodology pegging the daily per capita income cap at Rs 32 in urban areas and Rs 26 in villages for a person to be counted as poor.
NC Saxena, former secretary of the Planning Commission who helped shape the methodology, said the census would aid better targeting of schemes.