A Colossal objection-filing spree has turned the exercise of finalising the list of below poverty line (BPL) beneficiaries in Bihar into the biggest socio-political challenge facing the 17-month-old Nitish Kumar Government.
Saddled with 30.61 lakh objections (as on May 10) to its 65 lakh-strong draft BPL list, the government has admitted for the first time that it may have to go below 13 points for determination of poverty on which the existing list has been finalised, to restrict the number of the beneficiary families within the limits set by the Centre.
“If our efforts to persuade the Centre to approve a one-crore strong BPL list for Bihar fail and a sizeable number of objections are found genuine, we may be left with no option other than to go below 13 points and apply more stringent parameters to confine the list to 65 lakh beneficiaries,” Rural Development Minister Baidyanath Prasad Mahto told HT.
This, as the Minister is undoubtedly aware, may be a recipe for trouble. Going by the swell of objections, there is a sense of desperation among the poor to find place on the BPL list. Realising the list would be the sole criterion for determining the beneficiaries of many welfare schemes, hordes of poor have been making violent protests over their exclusion.
In deference of the widespread discontent over the draft list, the government has directed the district authorities to extend further the last date for receiving objections as per need.
“The DMs have been asked to extend the time for this purpose till May-end, in consultation with observers appointed to oversee the objection-resolution exercise,” Mahto said.
Considering the political criticality of the BPL list, the government has deployed 38 IAS officers for this purpose. But, as the Minister confirmed, the extension of the period set for filing objections–as also the vastness of the exercise of document verification–means that the BPL list is unlikely to be finalised before the end of August.
“Many applications for inclusion in the list are from individual members of the same family or APL beneficiaries and are liable to be rejected. As such, genuine claimants for inclusion in the list may be much fewer compared to the number of objections. Still, the verification exercise will extend at least a month beyond the July 31 deadline,” Mahto admitted.
The conclusion of this gargantuan exercise will be a defining moment as much for the government as for the Opposition, which stands accused of fomenting trouble by instigating even the ineligible to claim scarce BPL benefits.