Below Poverty Line 

The development planning in India aimed at bringing the weaker section of  the society to the main stream of development. However, the growth models adopted for development in first two decades of planning which were based on 'trickle down' theory, could not provide any relief to the downtrodden people. It is well proved by the recorded population of 75% people living below poverty line in the year 1973-1974. In order to overcome this situation Government of India brought out specific programmes for the poorer section of society since the inception  of Fifth Five Year Plan (1974-79). Concerted efforts were made by Government  of India for the eradication of poverty. As a corollary to it, the first official announcement of the Indian Poverty Line was made in the Rajya Sabha on December, 21, 1978 by the then Prime Minister.

            The poverty line, as announced, was based on the rupee value of a specified nutritional requirement. It was stipulated that the calorie standard for a typical individual in rural areas was 2400 calories and 2100 calories in urban areas. Then the cost of the grains that fulfil this normative standard was calculated. This cost was the poverty line. In 1978, it was Rs. 71.30 and Rs. 61.80 per person per month for rural and urban areas respectively. Since then, the Planning Commission recalculates the poverty line every year adjusting it for inflation. In 1999-2000 the poverty line stood at Rs. 454.00 and Rs. 328.00 in rural and urban areas respectively.

            In a society where poverty is so pervasive and visible, the social scientists, particularly economists come forward to understand the nature and magnitude of poverty. In this regard the economists viewed Planning Commission's Poverty Line merely as a 'Starvation Line'. According to them food is not the only requirement of a human being. Even in terms of nutrition, the estimates of the Planning Commission are way off. According to a study conducted by the National Institute of Nutrition, under the aegis of Indian Council of Medical Research, the chief authority of nutritional standard in India, the typical rural Indian requires 2900 calories and Indian urbanite require 2400 calories per day per head respectively. Furthermore, the Planning Commission did not mention the minimum requirements of protein, mineral or vitamins. Based on these analogies the Economists emphasized upon stipulating the minimum needs that make up the basic standard of living.

 

Such an approach - to define  poverty in terms of basic needs- was championed by Prof. Paul P. Streeten  who defined 'Basic Needs' as the core goods and services like education, health, nutrition, sanitation and shelter, Other prominent economists, namely Frances Stewart, Amartya Sen, Gerald Meier and many more, have contributed to the theoretical question of "how to measure poverty?" Amartya Sen's "Capabilities Approach" which measures poverty as the capability to perform certain basic functions, has become accepted in development theory. In the year 1976, the International Labour Organisation had advised all the countries to adopt the basic needs approach to measure poverty.

            Government of India has been hampering upon income measure of poverty till 1996. The inadequacies of an income measure of poverty are apparent enough. The cut-off income was Rs. 6400.00 and Rs. 11,000.00 per year during the Seventh Plan (1985-90) and Eighth Plan (1992-97) respectively. Quite apart from the problem of determining the level of income that should constitute poverty, an income measure does not capture many important features of economic and social deprivation. It was only during the year 1997 that the Ministry of Rural Development recommended to conduct a survey of families living below poverty line on the basis of multiple criteria-qualitative parameters, like housing condition, occupation, number of earning members in the family and asset ownership. In the Tenth Five Year Plan Poverty was viewed not only in terms of lack of income but as a state of deprivation that prevents people from effective participation in the development process. Good education, health, nutrition and low fertility help reduce poverty by increasing the opportunities to generate incomes.

 

Process of Identification

With a view to improving the Methodology for identification of BPL household, in BPL census for Tenth Plan, the Ministry of Rural Development had constituted an Expert Group, comprising administrators, academicians, planner and representatives of the States of Assam, Kerala, Orissa, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. The  recommendations  of the expert group were accepted by Government  of India and the latter decided to adopt a normative approach for identifying the rural poor by introducing a 'Score Based Ranking' on relative deprivations revealed by certain socio-economic indicators in contrast to 'income' and 'expenditure' approach adopted in the BPL census, 1992 and 1997 respectively.

            The schedule to be adopted for BPL Census 2002 contains both scorable and non-scorable indicators (Annexure-I). The indicators appearing under the main block on Profile of Household are non-scorable and have been included for the purpose of building up poverty profile of the rural people. While information should be collected on all the items under this main block, they are not to be used for assessing the poverty status of the household. Thirteen scorable indicators have been included in the schedule. A score (o,1,2,3,4) is to be assigned to every household, in respect of each of these indicators. The total score for each household is to be calculated. The families scoring 39 or less marks were to be treated below poverty line and families with the scores in between 40 and 52 would be treated as above poverty line.

            The government of India accepted the recommendations of the Expert Committee and directed the State Governments through its circular of 13th Sept. 2003 to identify the people living below poverty line by 31st March, 2003. The Government of Uttar Pradesh, following the circular of Central Government issued a circular to all the District Magistrates for Completing the BPL list by 30th April, 2003. The on going process of identification of BPL families had to be abruptly stopped. As per directives of the Hon. Supreme Court, issued on 5th May, 2003 in the writ petition (No. 196 of 2001) filed by People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) the results of BPL Census-2002 could not be finalized. However, Ministry of Rural Development, through its letter of  25th March, 2004 had advised the State Governments to complete the spade work for the preparation of the BPL list and subsequently to prepare tabulation plans for the 13 indicators. However, for want of the updated list the state governments have been expressing difficulty in implementing some of the poverty alleviation programmes. Hence , based on the advice of Additional Solicitor General, Government of India decided to finalise the results of the BPL Census, 2002 without deleting the BPL families already existing in the BPL list of BPL Census 1997. Acting upon it Government of India issued revised directives on 10th October, 2005 to all the State Governments. Following these directives the Government of Uttar Pradesh in the Department of Rural Development issued circular to all District Magistrates on 22nd November, 2005 to finalise the BPL list based on the BPL Census 2002, following all the earlier guidelines, and also to observe the following points :

 

(a)        The BPL list of 2002 will be first prepared based on the BPL Census 2002. In addition, the list will also have at the bottom separately, the details of all those families who were in the BPL list of 1997 but were getting excluded in the new list based on the BPL Census 2002. They will be placed in the order in which they are ranked by the scorecard of the Census 2002.

 

(b)        This new list along with the scores and inter se ranking will be displayed at the Panchayat Headquarters for a period of one month. During this period, the list will also be placed before the Gram Sabha for approval, if it had not been done earlier. The notice for the meeting of the Gram Sabha will be publicly displayed and also orally announced by the beating of drums well in advance of the meeting. The meeting can also be attended by the village officials namely, School Head Master, Anganwadi workers, Ward Panch, Patwari and Gram Sevak. Ward Sabhas also will be held in addition to the Gram Sabha, where it is statutorily required to do so. The photocopy of the survey forms will be provided on demand to anybody to reveal how the scores have been given.

 

(c)        The lists approved in the Gram Sabhas will continue to be displayed at the Panchayat Headquarters till the completion of the final appeal procedure at the District Collector's level.

 

Need of the Study

            The inordinate delay in the finalisation of the BPL List in BPL Census, 2002 caused an uproar amongst the member organizations of UPVAN. Consequently, two-day  workshop was organized on 11th and 12th May, 2004 at Lucknow. Majority of the members were of the view that a PIL should be filed in Hon’ able High Court but in view of PIL pending in the Hon’ able Supreme Court this idea was deferred Instead it was decided upon to review the ground level realities for such delaying process. It is in this background that UPVAN undertook this study during the year 2005-06 under its Advocacy Programme. This study was conducted with the following objectives : 

  • to assess the gradual development of poverty line
    indicators;

  • to adjudge the infrastructure for BPL survey;

  • to review  the identification process of BPL list;

  • to assess the Contribution of gram panchayats in the identification process;

  • to identify the factors hindering the process;

  • to put forth suggestions for the easy and simplified process of identifying the BPL     list.

 

Method of Study

The area of study was extended to the entire state. However, the sampling technique was adopted. A sample of 39 districts out of 70 districts State of Uttar Pradesh, giving due weightage to four agro-economic zones, was drawn. From the selected districts 441 Gram Panchayats were selected for detailed studies. The study was conducted on survey method. The field work was carried out by the 82 Member organizations of UPVAN working at grassroot level in the respective districts. The discussions with Gram Panchayat representatives and Gram Sabha members were held by the experienced workers of member organizations with the help of Focus Group Discussion (FGD) schedule- a successful tool of P.R.A technique. Besides, discussions were held with the officials and secondary data was also compiled from the concerned channels of Gramya Vikas Vibhag of Uttar Pradesh..

 

Findings of the Study

  1. Thirteen point indicators developed for the identification of BPL households is misleading. Even district and block level officials were not very much clear about it.

  2. It was imperative that for the successful identification of B.P.L. families the villagers should have been taken into confidence. The best course would have been to make the villagers aware about the process of identification in a meeting of Gram Sabha,  specially Convened for this purpose and after compilation of the BPL list, it should have been displayed at public place in the village. The objections could have been invited and list corrected accordingly. The study shows the reality at community level as under :

  • Seventy percent of the respondents flatly told that no such meeting was convened in their area. Another seven percent respondents expressed their ignorance about the Gram Sabha Meetings.

  • About 64.4 percent respondents were almost blank about the periodicity of the survey.

  • About 82 percent respondents were totally ignorant about the display of BPL list.

  • The laid down 13 indicators for BPL identification were not kept in view during survey period. Out of 157 respondents, expressing their opinion about survey 51 percent respondents supported this view. As regards the quality of survey, out of 157 respondents 127 (81%) treated it of poor quality. The reasons for the low quality of survey, as told by the respondents, were lack of people participation and parochial dealings of Gram Pradhans.

  1. There was lack of inter departmental coordination. The Panchayat Raj Department was not associated with this survey work. Neither copies of government orders/circulars, issued by Rural Development Department, were endorsed to Director Panchayati Raj, nor District level officers of Panchayati Raj Department were made a member of district level verification and monitoring committees.

  2. While working out the survey plan it was not kept in view as to how the survey work would be completed without adequate staff.

  3. Supervision and monitoring was not properly executed.

  4. The minimum marks assigned for declaring a family below poverty line have been arbitrarily changed (27 from39).

  5. The present election system of PRIs. has disrupted the brotherly atmosphere  of the villages. The gram Pradhans even go out of way to help the members of their resource group.

  6. The period of survey was also not appropriate. It was just after the 9th election of PRIs. Some of the newly elected Gram Pradhans had not been able to take the charge of gram Panchayats.

  7. The social environment has become so vitiated, as the man has become selfish. They forget that they are usurping the rights of others. The members Above Poverty Line try to present themselves Below Poverty Line.

 

Recommendations  

The dates for the publication of the final list of BPL families have been slipping underneath. In the month of July 2006 it has been changed for the Third time. Now 15th October 2006 is the last date for the final publication of BPL list in Uttar Pradesh. Such a trend compel us to think that probably the last date would always remain shifting. On the basis of the findings of study following suggestions are made for consideration of the Department in State Government :

  1. Responsibility is for negligence to finalise the BPL list need to be
    fixed and person concerned should be made accountable for lapses.

  2. Fresh time-bound survey is needed and for fresh survey with
    pertinent points are needed as under :-

  • Widespread publicity of the survey programme;

  • Simplified indicators of BPL should be devised;

  • The vacant positions  of Block and village level officials related to BPL programme, should be filled urgently;

  • The Panchayati Raj  Department should be closely associated with this task. It has to exercise its control over Gram Panchayats;

  • The unemployed graduates should be deployed for survey work. It may not  only justify their unemployment allowance but the graduates engaged might also feel proud of being associated with an onerous cause. Nevertheless, they should be paid travel expenses, etc.

  • The role of Gram Panchayat members should also be decided with regard
    to BPL identification process.

  • BPL and Antyodaya cards should be issued only after proper verification.

  • The Gram Panchayats have the upper hand in the finalisation of the BPL list. Hence all the Gram Panchayat representatives should be mobilized and sensitized so that they could realize that their honest dealings would help a great deal to their downtrodden brethren.

  1. The role of Gram Panchayat members should also be decided with
    regard to BPL identification process.

  2. BPL and Antyodaya cards should be issued only after proper verification.

  3. The Gram Panchayats have the upper hand in the finalisation of the BPL list. Hence all the Gram Panchayat representatives should be mobilized and sensitized so that they could realize that their honest dealings would help a great deal to their downtrodden brethren.

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