Current Affairs: Poverty Measurement and SECC
Hello friends. Today we will discuss an important topic. That is the issue of measurement of poverty. What we will be basically looking at, is the recent release of the data of the Socio Economic Caste Census, and this becomes an important topic from the mains point of view. There is a very high likelihood that a question from this topic will appear, either in your paper II or in your paper III, because poverty measurement and issues related to poverty and hunger is an important topic from your syllabus from the mains point of view.
So, what we will be basically looking into the issue of poverty measurement which has recently come into strong focus because of the release of the data on the Socio Economic Caste Census. Now, this important political cartoon, basically illustrates one of the biggest problems with the measurement of poverty in India. Poverty lines repeatedly or the whole measurement of poverty is something that began in 1974-75 and has gone on till 2011. And it is in 2011 when the Socio Economic Caste Census was supposed to be started. Now, in this whole period of some 25-30 years what has happened is that often poverty line measurements have happened in monetary terms the last, for example, this political cartoon came in the context of the Tendulkar committee report defining poverty line in India as Rs.26 per person per day, in rural area then Rs.32 per person per day in urban areas. This definition of poverty line had been termed as ridiculously low which actually excludes a lot of poor people from being defined as poor or as being defined below the poverty line and thus being excluded from the benefits of a large number of social welfare schemes specifically meant for those falling below the poverty line. So, this has been one of the major problems of the poverty line within India till now. There have been other major issues with respect to the poverty line also. F or example, that a large number of people who are given the BPL cards actually are people who have obtained the categorization of BPL are who have managed to get into the category of BPL by false and fraudulent means, and almost half the number of people who actually deserve BPL card have been denied because they have not been included in the list of BPL. So there are significant errors of inclusion and exclusion in this measurement of BPL of the low poverty line individual. So we will look into this as we will move forward.
Now, from the mains point of view, 3 or 4 important ways of framing this question can be:
The first important way is that the poverty measurement in India is crucial to the task of poverty alleviation. Actually one of the biggest obstacles in measuring in eradicating poverty is that the government has been unable to persistently and consistently identify those people who need, who urgently need governmental support and the support of governmental welfare schemes. And this has been one of the biggest obstacles in poverty alleviation. So poverty measurement is a crucial to the task of poverty alleviation. In light of the above statement, discuss the relevance and finding of the Socio Economic Caste Census. So that is one way of framing the question.
Another way of framing the question is, with the announcement of the SECC findings poverty alleviation schemes in India are bound to see a radical break from the past. Critically analyze the question is asking here is that to what extent the Socio Economic Caste Census and the way of measuring poverty according to the Socio Economic Caste Census is actually different from the measurement techniques appointed by the previous poverty measurement committees by the government and what are the strengths and weaknesses of the new method which has been suggested by the Socio Economic Caste Census. So we need to see the positive as well as the negative sides of the procedure which has been followed by the Socio Economic Caste Census.
The third important way of looking at the question is that the poverty measurement in India has had a long history and to what extent Socio Economic Caste Census is a radical break from the previous measurement methods of poverty
So these are three important ways in which the question can be framed.
Now, we have to understand 4 or 5 major important issues based on which the whole debate on poverty measurement can be framed. For example, there are two ways of measuring poverty, one is an absolute way of measuring poverty, and another is the relative way of measuring poverty. We will see what we mean by this. There can be another important idea, is that what role does a poverty line serve? Whether it has a normative role or whether it has a monitoring role. Whether the poverty line is meant to identify the poor, who exactly the poor are and who need the support of governmental schemes. That is a normative poverty line, or we have a measurement of poverty line which helps to understand how many people have escaped poverty so if we have a poverty line which basically is meant to measure only how many people have escaped the clutches of poverty then that is a poverty line that is meant to serve only one role that is a monitoring role. That is a way in which a poverty line is used.
Also, what is important is do we have a direct or do we have an indirect approach to poverty measurement. Direct approach to poverty measurement is one where we try to identify how many people do not have access to land, how many people do not have access to shelter, how many people do not have access to sanitation, or education, or healthcare. So, that is a direct approach to poverty measurement. Apart from this direct approach there can be another approach that rather than identifying people who are deprived of certain or specific facilities such as an education, or healthcare, or access to housing, we actually define a money based poverty line and this monetary poverty line is basically supposed to be sufficient enough to take care of all the needs of education, healthcare, food security, housing etc.
Another important way of looking at poverty line can be that whether it is a purely capability way money-centric approach or purely money-centric approach. Now, what do we mean by this? We will see this when we go forward. And, finally is the idea that do we have a single monolithic poverty line or do we have a multi-dimensional poverty line. And it is this Socio Economic Census today actually is a multi-dimensional poverty line and all the poverty line that we had been drawing with before this were single monolithic poverty line and this represents a radical break from the past. And this is also something that we will see as we move forward.
Now, firstly let’s understand what is an absolute measurement of poverty. The absolute measure of poverty or the idea of an absolute measurement of poverty is based upon the idea of what Amartya Sen called as capability deprivation. Now Amartya Sen has a way of looking at poverty which has been accepted by other developmental economists also. Rather than being concerned about whether a person is earning Rs.26 per day or Rs.30 per day or Rs.40 or Rs.50, and what should be the level at which we should draw the poverty line and below which individuals are considered as poor by the government, and you know, entitled to benefits of governmental welfare schemes, what Sen defines a poverty line is that any individual who is not able to access basic education, basic healthcare, basic sanitation and a minimum amount of food security is to be considered as poor. And they are to be considered as poor because of the fact that a denial of basic education, healthcare, food security actually hampers the ability of an individual to realize their potential and this hampering of an ability of an individual to realize their potential entraps them in a chronic state of poverty. So when an individual does not have access to education, healthcare, food security, then it is quite much likely that they will not be able to develop to their fullest potential and realize their fullest potential and this will keep them always under employed and in a chronic state of poverty. So, even for realizing demographic dividends of the country, we need to provide these basic services to the poor and individuals who are not able to afford these basic services should be termed as poor. That is the idea of looking at poverty which is that inspired by Amartya Sen and others that is a capability based approach to measurement of poverty. From this point of view, if we look from this point of view, what we need to understand is that rather than seeing money as an end in itself, that if you are earning, say, let’s take a random figure, if you are earning, say Rs.5,000 a month you are poor. If you are earning Rs.10,000 a month, you are not poor. That is not the point according to Sen. According to Sen the point is, are you earning enough to take care of your basic requirements. If you are earning enough to take care of basic requirements, whether it is Rs.5,000 or Rs.10,000, it doesn’t matter. But if you are not earning to take care of your basic requirements of education, healthcare and food security, sanitation etc. then in that condition you are to be termed as poor. So, if you look from the point of view of Amartya Sen and other developmental economists, the amount of money which is required to provide for these basic functioning of human being and capabilities of human beings are: is the money which is required and should be termed as the poverty line. So, here the poverty line is based upon a capability approach. So, the amount of money required for an individual to have an access to basic services required to develop the capabilities is the poverty line according to Amartya Sen and other developmental economists.
However, what is a then if this is absolute poverty line, then what is a relative poverty line. Now, there have been other economists, like C. Rangarajan and all, who have talked about an idea of a relative poverty line. So, what Rangarajan goes on to say is that out of these 100 people, those 25 people who own the least will be termed as poor, irrespective of what all the people are earning, what is the individual income of all the people. So, those 25 people out of these 100 people who earn the least will be termed as poor. So, that’s a relative poverty line. Irrespective of whatever people are earning it looks at the issue of the income of the better of sections of the society to the income of the lowest quantile. So, it’s a relative measure. It is a measure which is looking more at income inequality rather than absolute income levels per say. So, saying that others are concerned with absolute measurement of poverty and it is an absolute measurement of poverty which is translated into money figures whereas, if the lowest 25 percent of people earn say Rs.10,000 per month, or Rs.20,000 per month, we are just taking hypothetical figure, then that will be termed as the poverty line for this particular group. So, if the idea of poverty line or relative poverty line is applied to the whole country then the lowest 25 percent of all the earning population of the country, the earning of the lowest 25 percent of the population will be the line which will be drawn for determining the status of the poor. So, that’s a different way of looking at poverty which is termed as a relative measurement of poverty.
Another way of looking at poverty is what is the purpose a poverty line is supposed to serve? And the purpose that a poverty line is supposed to serve can be either a normative purpose or a monitoring purpose. Now a normative purpose is very simple. A normative purpose is the purpose that the idea here is that a poverty line is drawn to identify the beneficiaries for governmental schemes. So, for example, right now if you see, the old age pensions are given to only individuals who fall below the poverty line. So, that is for example, a pension scheme run by the government because of the scarcity of resources, it is limited to those individuals who fall below the poverty line. So, that is the whole idea that identifying a poverty line and identifying individuals who fall below the poverty line so as to ensure that certain specific schemes of the government which are not universal are applied only to those individuals who are actually in a dire need of governmental support. For example, for individuals who are homeless, the Indira Awas Yojna looks at providing financial support to individuals trying to build their own home and this again is limited individuals below the poverty line. And the idea here is of a normative poverty line is to identify beneficiaries for the purpose of governmental schemes. On the other hand, a monitoring rule of the poverty line is, just to see, it does not, it intention of a monitoring based poverty line or poverty line which is meant to serve only the purpose of monitoring is to see how many people have come out of poverty. So, for example, there is a poverty line which follows a technique, or which follows a procedure which comes to the understanding in which shows that, say randomly speaking, say that 40 percent of the people were poor in the country in 1960. In 1980 the number of poor dropped to 30, in 1990 the number of dropped to 20 percent of the population. So, this is a poverty line which isn’t trying to identify who these 40 percent people are, or who these 30 percent people are, or who these 20 percent people are. It is a poverty line which is helping the government to trace the amount of poverty in the country. It is a way of defining poverty and measuring poverty in a manner that rather than identifying specific beneficiaries who should receive governmental support, it helps to track whether the governmental policies being followed over the decades have actually helped in reducing the poverty or have actually increased poverty. So, that is the two functions a poverty line can serve. In India, the poverty lines that we have been deciding and we have been, you know, devising over a period of time have aimed to serve the purpose of both normative as well as a monitoring role. So, poverty lines identifying and defining in India are supposed to both identify the poor as well as track poverty needs in the country so as to see whether the governmental schemes, or whether the governmental policies followed over decades are actually reducing the amount of poverty in the country. However, the poverty lines in India have miserably failed in identifying the poor and have support from huge inclusion as well as exclusion errors. Inclusion errors are those errors, people who do not deserve the benefit of governmental schemes but have still been identified as BPL or below poverty line individuals, and individuals in exclusion errors are those errors which happened because of the fact that the poor and the needy who need governmental support have been excluded from receiving governmental support because of the fact that they have not been identified in the first place or they have been wrongly identified as individuals who do not need governmental support. So, this exclusion error is also a very significant problem, for example, in 2004-5, almost 50 percent of the people who needed governmental support and should have been identified as BPL were not identified as BPLs. So, exclusion errors to the tune of 50 percent existed with our poverty line and so the poverty lines defined by the government of India, were themselves very poor, or were themselves very inefficient in identifying who the poor are. However, almost any poverty line can serve an important, or can serve the role of monitoring, whether over the years a poverty has decreased in the country or not. Whether they are actually, but that there is actually a big problem even with the way we see a monitoring role of a poverty line and that we will see in the later part of the lecture.
The next thing that we need to understand is that there can be a direct approach to measurement of poverty and there can be an indirect approach to measurement of poverty. So, if you apply the whole idea of capability based approach or a capability approach then if you apply this idea of a capability approach a direct measurement of poverty would try to find how many people are malnourished, how many people do not have access to sanitation, how many people do not have access to education, how many people do not have access to a house, or do not have access to shelter for living, or how many people do not have access to, say, to a minimal amount of employment. So, if this is the measure of poverty, this is the way we are trying to identify poor and trying to identify the amount of poverty in the country that is a direct approach to poverty measurement. So, for example, the national family health survey comes up with data about malnutrition rates in the country. The number of homeless households have been identified at times by the, for the Indira Awas Yojna etc. So, to identify the number of poor households by our directly measuring the deprivation that households are poor from, how many households do not have access to drinking water, how many households do not have access to sanitation, how many of them do not have access to a shelter, access to literacy or education or healthcare. If this is the way we approach poverty to identify the poor, then that is a direct approach to poverty measurement.
What is an indirect approach to poverty measurement? An indirect approach to poverty measurement is a money metric approach. What is this money metric based approach? The money metric based approach is again simple. That individuals who do not have access to Rs.32 per person per day are to be defined as poor. Or randomly, or you can take any amount of figure, whether it is Rs.50, Rs.30 per person per day, or Rs.100 per person per day. So what we are not concerned is identifying how many people lack access to education or who are these specific people who lack education or healthcare or food security or household or do not have a house they own or do not have access to land or do not own land or are manual laborers. If you are not interested in identifying these specific people who lack access to specific facilities and individuals who are specifically deprived, then that is, and we are basically focusing only on having a poverty line which sees what is the income of the individual, that is a purely money metric approach to measurement of poverty. And the problem today is this that surveys after surveys of poverty in India have proven that poverty in India has been declining according to the money metric approach. According to the money metric approach the earning capability of individuals and the earnings households as increased over a period of time and overall poverty in the country has declined and this has been a consistent finding of every other committee appointed by the government, but the paradox here is, and this is the problem, the paradox here is that this money metric based approach does not explain why in spite of increase in the income of households, the rates of malnutrition have not dropped. For example, if the income of households has actually increased over a period of time this should also be reflected in the national family health survey finding. But the national family health survey findings have consistently shown that the drop in the malnourishment rates, the drop in the wasting and stunting rates in the country has been very minimal and in contrast to that the poverty rates have been declining sharply according to the money metric approach. So there is a problem here that on the basis of indirect measurement according to money metric approach the poverty rates have been declining sharply, but according to a direct approach of poverty measurement, for example, if you measure the amount of malnourishment in the country the poverty rates have seen a very minimal decline. So, there has been a sharp divergence according to poverty measured by the direct method and poverty measured by the indirect method. One of the positive aspects of the Socio Economic Caste Census today, which is a radical break from the past, is that it is more of a direct approach to poverty measurement rather than an indirect approach to poverty measurement. Now that is the whole idea here of a direct approach versus an indirect approach to poverty measurement.
Now, the next way of looking it again is a more similar way of a capability based money centric approach or a purely money centric approach. Now this is again the whole idea. A capability based money centric approach is the whole idea of measuring capability deprivation and measuring absolute poverty according to this whereas the whole idea of purely money centric approach is to measure the relative rates of poverty. So the whole idea of a purely money centric approach is to measure a relative rates of poverty. So, that’s the logic that we are trying to arrive at here.
So, for example, again just to drive home the point of what is a purely money centric based approach, as I have told you, for example, Kaushik Basu recommends that we should draw the poverty line where, for example, if you measure in relative term of what is the average income of the poorest quantile or the poorest 25 percent of the population. So whatever is the average of, or whatever is the uppermost level of the poorest 25 percent of the population should be defined as the relative poverty line. So, that’s again a different way. Now, the importance here of the SECC is that the SECC comes very close to having a capability based money centric approach, and even it is an improvement over previous capability based money centric approaches. So the households which have a, you know, old age people, households which have people suffering from certain chronic diseases etc. may have a much higher requirement of income to take care of their basic needs in a month rather than a household which does not have old age people, which does not have people suffering from any chronic diseases or disabilities and in that context the amount of money required to take care of basic health, basic requirements of a household will be much lesser. So given the variations of age, sex, disabilities, healthcare status etc. households have different amount of needs or households have different amount of requirements in terms of money to take care of the basic requirements and to that extent, again, defining a single monolithic poverty line becomes a problem because in this way again a large number of poor people who require governmental support will be deprived of it because the poverty line does not take into account variations between families. So again it will result in a large number of poor individuals actually being deprived of governmental benefits, and that’s called an exclusion error in respect to poverty measurement.
Now, one of the important things a lot of people really don’t understand is how does the government actually do poverty measurement? Now, the measurement of the poverty in India happens in two ways, and this is important to understand, planning commission has routinely appointed committees which have come up with poverty lines, for example, the Tendulkar committee came up with the poverty line of Rs.32 per person per day. And this is the poverty line which is defined on the basis of national sample survey findings. Now national sample survey findings actually go and collect data from say 1 or 2 lakh individuals throughout the whole country, and they do select these 1 or 2 lakh people in a manner that they are representative of a whole population. They do not go and talk to each and every person in the country to find out what their income is, rather they talk to a sample of, say, 1 lakh individuals throughout the whole country and on the basis of this they come up with a poverty line and on the basis of this poverty line the government comes up with an estimate for the whole country that what is the poverty at the national level or what is the poverty at the state level and what is the poverty at urban and rural levels. But the important purpose of identifying who exactly these poor people are. It is one thing to say that 30 percent of the people in the country are poor. But who are these 30 percent also need to be identified and this is the function which is done by the BPL surveys. And the BPL surveys have been historically done by the state government. In the past 25 years 3 BPL surveys have been done, one in 1992, the other in 1997 and the third in 2002. So, the idea of a BPL survey and the role of the BPL surveys is to actually identify the poor, to identify the specific beneficiaries who require governmental support. So the BPL surveys have this important role. Their ability and their importance is to provide accurate information of who these 30 percent, or for example, if the planning commission comes up with the finding that 30 percent people of the country are poor. The role of the BPL surveys is to find out who these 30 percent people are and where do they live and thus identify them for governmental support. So what happens is the central government through the planning commission comes up with these poverty estimates on the basis of poverty lines whereas the role of the BPL surveys done by the state governments is to identify the poor. Needless to say, I have again and again pointed out that these BPL surveys have been subject to various faults, have been subject to various errors and have been subject to a large number of inclusion and exclusion errors. A large number of people who are actually identified as poor in India today according to the BPL surveys are not poor and do not deserve governmental support. On the other hand, large number of individuals who urgently require governmental support do not get this status of BPL because they have wrongly been identified as not being poor. So the BPL surveys suffer from huge amount of inclusion and exclusion error, whereas the planning commission based surveys have often been criticized for defining these poverty line as so low that a very few number of people actually get defined as poor. So to the extent that, you know, one of the debates and criticism of the poverty line defined by the planning commission is that to keep the poverty line in terms of money required per person per day so low that only large number of people today are not termed as poor, and the role of the BPL survey is to identify only who the poor are. So the BPL survey cannot identify 40 percent of the population as poor if the poverty line decided by the planning commission is 30 percent. So that is the importance we have to understand of the role of the BPL surveys that is done by the state government and of the role of the planning commission based committees which suggest poverty lines on the basis of national sample surveys. The BPL surveys actually go and talk to each and every household to identify who these poor people exactly are. So BPL surveys are similar to census, so it is a BPL census kind of a thing which is done by the state government. Now if this much is clear, just for the sake of understanding how these poverty lines are, or how these poor poverty lines are actually arrived at, firstly the planning commission decides what a poverty line basket is. A poverty line basket basically consists of a minimal amount of goods and services which are required by individuals to survive. And then, for example, what is the minimum nutritional requirement for an individual to survive per day, what are the other non-nutritional requirements that individuals have which should be fulfilled. So the whole idea of a poverty line basket which is the first step in identifying the poor is that the planning commission defines what are the minimum basic nutritional and non-nutritional requirements that individuals have and what is the cost in monetary terms to take care of this nutritional requirement. So what is the amount of food or what is the amount of cereals that a family requires, what is the amount of other things apart from cereals that a family requires and what is the market cost of these food supplies and non-food supplies which are required by a household in a month. So on the basis of this, firstly a poverty line basket is identified which consists of the minimum number of goods which are required by an individual household in a month. Then the value of this poverty line is converted into rupees and on the basis of this we arrive at a poverty line and that is the whole idea that depending upon the NSSO data of the monthly consumption expenditure a poverty estimation is done by the planning commission with respect to every state so poverty line is defined for the whole country as well as for different states as well as for urban and rural areas. And, for example, say for the state of Maharashtra the planning commission comes through to an identification that 30 percent of people in Maharashtra are poor. Then the role of the BPL surveys is done by the state is to identify who these 30 percent people actually are and these are the people who are identified by the BPL surveys who will be allowed to, or who will be given the benefits of governmental schemes. If the planning commission says that only 30 percent people in Maharashtra are poor then the BPL survey cannot identify 40 percent as poor. The BPL survey should identify exactly the 30 percent of people who will receive the benefit of governmental schemes that are implemented by the central and the state government. So the role of identifying who the poor are is with the state government and the role of defining the poverty line is with the central government.
The next thing that we will see is how have the poverty lines actually evolved in the country. Now the poverty lines in India have evolved over almost 40 to 50 years. The first poverty line was defined by the planning commission in 1961 was termed as the Perspective Planning Committee report on poverty line and which defined as poverty line as Rs.20 per person per month and Rs.25 per person per month for urban areas. While deciding how did they come up with this definition of Rs.20 per month per person in 1961 for rural areas and Rs.25 for urban areas the planning commission report did not identify the logic and the rationale, did not give the reasoning and the formula on the basis of which they decided that this is going to be the poverty line. It did not, for example, did not include a calorie based approach, it did not consider the nutritional requirements for the family, or per person, nor did it include an expenditure calculation for education and health. So it did not take into consideration the nutritional requirements, it did not take into consideration educational or healthcare requirements of individuals and then arrive at this poverty line. The logic and the rationale for arriving at this poverty line was never given.
However, in 1979, we adopted a much more scientific approach to the measurement of poverty and this was done by Yoginder Alagh committee. The Yoginder Alagh committee defined the poverty line on the basis of calorie requirements of an individual. So the Alagh committee’s understanding was this that education and healthcare were facilities which were supposed to be provided to all individuals by the government free of cost. Because education and healthcare was to be provided by the government free of cost, while calculating the poverty line, education and healthcare will not be used as, you know, criteria for arriving at the poverty line. For defining the money metric for poverty line, the committee decided to look at the calorie requirements and it said that every individual should be able to afford in the urban area 2100 kilocalories per day and every individual in the rural areas should be able to afford 2400 kilocalories per day. If they are able to afford this much, then they are not to be termed as poor. So according to this calorie based requirements, the Yoginder Alagh committee came to the understanding that what is the amount of money a family requires to take care of the nutritional requirements of every person in the family for the whole month, and the nutritional requirement for 2100 kilocalories in the urban areas and 2400 kilocalories in the rural areas. And why these set of calories were considered the minimum basic amount of calories required? It was on the basis of the Dandekar and Rath committee in 1971. So for the first time, from 1979 onwards we are giving a logic and a rationale for arriving at a poverty line. So the Yoginder Alagh committee thus defines the cost or defines the poverty line in terms of nutritional parameters or the amount of money required for every individual to be able to afford 2100 kilocalories per day. So that’s their logic of defining the poverty line. Mind you, this does not include the amount of expenditure done on education and healthcare because they were supposed to be provided free of cost by the government.
In 1993, the Lakadhwala committee carries on the way of measuring poverty as had been done by the Yoginder Alagh committee. More or less, applies the same formula and has the same way of looking at poverty. Also, but one of the thing that the Lakadhwala committee does is that it says that this poverty line needs to be indexed to inflation, because the amount of money required, say in 1975, for 2400 kilocalories will not be the same of the amount of money required in 1993, because of the fact of inflation. So if say the poverty line was Rs.30 per person per month in 1975 than it needs to be indexed to inflation to arrive at the poverty line, say if it is a Rs.100 or Rs.200 per person per month in 1993. So the poverty line needs to be indexed to inflation, so with inflation the poverty line also needs to be upgraded to take care of the nutritional requirement. The logic of measuring of poverty line did not change with the Lakadhwala committee also which said that the poverty line needs to be indexed on the basis of the consumer price index for the agricultural laborers and consumer price index for the industrial workers. But there had been extreme criticism of the Lakadhwala committee recommendation. So in many ways the Lakadhwala committee was an extension of the Yoginder Alagh committee, to the extent it followed a similar logic and a simple formula. The only difference was that it recommended that the poverty line should be indexed to the CPI or the consumer price index to account for inflation. And at the same point of time one of the major criticisms was that the updated poverty line were not sufficient to buy the originally specified calorie requirements also and accounting for inflation according to the CPI index what was found was the amount of money allocated for satisfying the calorie requirement for a household for a month was found to be insufficient in the first place or even the money allocated was according to the poverty line was found to be insufficient to take care of only the nutritional requirements also. Even when was there a no provisioning for healthcare and education in terms of calculating the cost for determining the poverty line. So that was one of the major criticisms of the Lakadhwala committee. Again you will see this is a tendency here that the poverty line has been defined at ridiculously low levels which excludes a lot of people who should have been defined poor in the first place as being identified as poor. The result is that fewer number of people actually were identified as eligible for governmental welfare benefits under the BPL category. Also one of the important criticisms also was that there was no attempt to take note of the changing consumption basket. So the same types of foods whose cost was calculated in 73-74 the same kinds of foods were adopted for determining the poverty line basket in 93-94 also. For almost 20 years the same kind of foods were used to determine the cost of calories consumption for the whole month. The understanding here is that over a period of time people’s food habit and consumption pattern actually change. But this change in food habits and consumption patterns was not accounted for while determining the new poverty line basket, so the poverty line basket 1993 was similar to the poverty line basket 20 years ago and even here the cost of acquiring this poverty line basket was not sufficiently accounted for. The result was that poverty line was defined at ridiculous levels. And one of the major criticisms thus was that while on the one hand the poverty was seen as decreasing because more people had as compared to the poverty line more people had more money in their hands, but on the other hand there was a growing diversion between the poverty, between the measurements of poverty in money metric terms or in terms of monthly expenditure per person while the poverty was shown by the Lakadhwala committee to have decreased significantly when measured in terms of the monetary expenditure per person per month. But on the other hand, there was absolutely very little improvement in the malnourishment rates. So the understanding here is, while poverty was seen as declining sharply according to calorie based money metric approach there was a very small decline in poverty when in seen in terms of malnourishment rates of people in the country. There was a paradox here, while on the one hand the governmental committees were pointing out a decline in poverty, but on the other hand the health of people in the country was not improving. So this was a major criticism of the Lakadhwala committee.
Now the next important committee which came was the Tendulkar committee that came in 2009. The Tendulkar committee was appointed in 2005, submitted its report in 2009. The first committee appointed in the 21st century for the measurement of poverty. And the Tendulkar committee made certain radical departures from the past. Unlike the Lakadhwala committee which was based upon calorie measurement and the monetary requirements for calorie intake, the Tendulkar committee delinked the idea of poverty measurement from calorie intake. It did not play the amount of calories required and the money spent on acquiring these calories did not play a very important role in determining the poverty lines in the country, according to the Tendulkar committee report. What is important here is that the Tendulkar committee report paid a much more important focus upon the non-nutritional requirements of individuals and the cost involved in fulfilling the non-nutritional requirements of the individual. So the calorie intake was the major focus of the Lakadhwala committee and the Alagh committee, but non-nutritional requirements, specially the expenditure on education and health were a predominant focus of the Tendulkar committee. So the understanding that the Tendulkar committee was that in spite of the initial intention of the government to make education and healthcare freely available to all but this had not materialized and the amount of quality education and the ability of the government sector to provide quality education and healthcare is severely limited in the backdrop of the fact that a large number of educational and healthcare facilities today are located in the private sector for which people have to pay out of their pocket. So it is important to account for the expenditures on healthcare and education by way of calculating the poverty line. And the traditional focus on the calorie based poverty line has to shift to account for the huge expenditures involved in acquiring non-nutritional services and to that extent expenditure on education and healthcare has to be accounted for. So in this way, the focus of the poverty line shifted from a mere calorie requirements to a National Minimum Living Standard, defined the poverty line on the basis of a National Minimum Living Standard that every individual should enjoy. To that extent the focus was strongly upon the non-food components whose cost would be calculated or will be taken into account while calculating the poverty line. So this was another major improvement rather over the previous poverty line which did not take into account or which were mainly limited to calculating poverty lines on the basis of calorie requirement. Actually one of another changes of the Tendulkar committee was that previously before the Tendulkar committee there used to be a separate poverty line for the urban areas, there used to be a separate poverty line for the rural areas. However the Tendulkar committee gave, you know, had done away with this distinction and announced only a single poverty line based upon the consumption matrix of the urban area and the same poverty line that would have been applied to the rural area according to the Tendulkar committee. And when we will see the data it will become clear that the Tendulkar committee was an improvement because it was taking account of non-nutritional expenditures also, but also because of the fact that it did not identify a separate poverty line for rural areas as from the urban areas, the amount of poverty in the country which the Tendulkar committee arrived at was actually comparatively higher than the poverty rate in the country identified by the Lakadhwala committee. The Tendulkar committee was considered an improvement over the previous committees because it was seen as a providing a more realistic estimation of poverty rates in the country, but at the same point of time, one of the major steps taken by Tendulkar committee which was heavily criticized was actually the fact that they had delinked the poverty lines from calorie requirements. Thought it was a positive step that they had taken into account non-nutritional requirements for calculating poverty lines, but there action of not taking into the account the calorie requirements of calculating the poverty lines was actually heavily criticized by developmental economists themselves. And you will be remembering that the Tendulkar committee arrived at the poverty line of Rs.32 per person per day and this was seen as ridiculously low and it is in the backdrop of this extreme criticism that in 2011, the government appointed the Rangrajan committee.
And the Rangrajan committee submitted its report in 2014. And it is, the Rangrajan committee, when we see the recommendations and the logic adopted by the Rangrajan committee it takes certain aspects from the Lakadhwala committee and certain aspects from the Tendulkar committee. So just like the Lakadhwala and the Tendulkar committee the Rangarajan committee also defined the whole idea of poverty on the basis of the cost of acquiring a poverty line basket. But here there were certain important differences. Whereas the Tendulkar expert group did not take into account the cost and did not pay important emphasis on the cost of nutritional requirements the Lakadhwala committee had a paid a very important emphasis on the nutritional requirements but did not pay a very important emphasis on the non-nutritional requirements. Whereas the Tendulkar committee paid a very important role on the non-nutritional requirements. Now apart from these similarities, there are certain crucial important differences also in the way Rangarajan committee actually approached the whole idea of poverty measurement. While just like Lakadhwala expert group it did not focus upon only calories in terms of nutritional requirements but went on to include the cost of protein as well as fats that an individual would require to consume for a healthy living. So while the Lakadhwala committee and before that the Alagh committee focused upon the nutritional requirement only in terms of calories, they did not include the consumption of proteins and fats. So that is also one of the reasons why the cost of a calorie based monetary poverty line also came down, but with the inclusion of the cost of consuming protein as well as fat again cost of poverty line will actually go up. So that was an upward revision. The Lakadhwala expert group does not focus upon non-nutritional requirements at all. The Tendulkar committee expert group actually did focus upon non-nutritional requirements, but was limited to education and health. The Rangarajan expert committee actually went on to have more comprehensive idea of non-nutritional requirements and identified 4 areas; clothing, rent, conveyance and education as the 4 areas. Clothing, education, rent and conveyance as 4 areas apart from nutritional requirements whose cost of acquisition also needs to be calculated if at all a poverty line has to be calculated. So if the cost of even these basic necessities is taken up the poverty line and the cost of poverty line will go even upwards. So that is why we will see the amount of poverty in India as compared by the Rangarajan committee is comparatively higher, that as calculated by the Tendulkar committee, and the Tendulkar committee’s calculation for the number of poor people in the country is actually higher the calculation made by Lakadhwala expert committee because over decades these committees have at least become more inclusive and have become more realistic in calculating the poverty line in monetary terms as compared to the committees which came before them. Another important point is that the Rangarajan committee has clearly indicated and this is a recommendation that goes on even into the twelfth plan and the Socio Economic Caste Census that the Rangarajan committee has clearly indicated that this whole estimation of the poverty line should not be used for determining who will be eligible for entitlements for governmental schemes or not. And what is required here is that each program that focuses upon a specific kind of a deprivation will have to choose a specific criteria which is most appropriate. So the point here is what the Rangarajan committee highlights is a very simple point that the beneficiaries for these schemes will have to be identified on the basis of the specific nature of the deprivation and not every individual will be entitled to every kind of benefit unless and until it is shown that the person is actually deprived on that particular parameter. So for example for a scheme, say, such as Indira Awas Yojna which aims at providing households which at providing dwelling units to individuals below poverty line who do not have a house of their own. Then in that case if at all we have specific data of individuals who do not have a housing unit then the benefits of this scheme of the Indira Awas Yojna should be limited only to those individuals who do not have a housing unit of their own. And if now what happens is that all individuals below the poverty line were identified in the BPL category are entitled to benefits of the Indira Awas Yojna, irrespective of the fact whether they have their own dwelling unit or not in the first place. The idea here is to understand and the fact that only the benefits of different schemes should be limited to only those individuals and specifically at those individuals who are deprived of that particular service and of that particular facility in the first place. So not all individuals because there is a strong possibility that there will be individuals who are in the BPL category and have a household of their own and so only those families who do not have a household of their own who should be the beneficiaries of the Indira Awas Yojna and not every individual who falls below the poverty line. So this specific scheme should be directed towards those individuals who need that particular support of the government or that particular deprivation in the first place. Another important point that the Rangarajan committee recommended was that we should move towards an idea of relative poverty estimation and the idea here was that measurement of poverty line should be delinked from deciding who will be the beneficiaries for governmental schemes or not and the measurement of the poverty line should play a predominantly monitoring role. Now it is here that we come to the importance of the SECC. The SECC or the Socio Economic Caste Census is supposed to identify those households which suffered specific deprivation. So it is supposed to identify those households which do not have land. It is supposed to identify those households which do not have a dwelling unit. It is supposed to identify those households whose income is not more than Rs.10,000 a month. So to identify the specific nature of deprivation and which households suffer from which specific kind of deprivation so that they are given that kind of a support. So those families which do not have a household will be given a household. Those families in which there is no individual who has a job of more than Rs.10,000 per month, then in that case, government employment incentives should be directed more towards these individuals etc. So this is the job that the Socio Economic Caste Census is supposed to do while the Rangarajan committee said that we need to move towards a relative poverty line measurement whose purpose will only be to monitor whether the poverty in the country is actually increasing or decreasing and it will not its focus unlike the previous governmental committees will not be deciding who will be the beneficiaries or who should not be the beneficiary. So to operationalize the idea of a relative poverty line measurement Rangarajan committee went on to say the lowest 35 percent people in rural areas and the lowest 25 percent people in the urban areas should be termed as poor for monitoring whether, for seeing how the poverty line, poverty rates in the country are actually changing over a period of time.
Now let’s move on and this will help you to understand what we have been discussing in term of theories right now of the differing approaches of different committees. Now let’s see the comparison of the poverty estimates done by different committees. If you see for the year 2004 and 5, the Lakadhwala committee if we apply the formula of the Lakadhwala committee, then the rural areas had 28 percent poverty and the urban areas had 25 percent poverty, and the total poverty in the country was 27 percent, or 27 percent of the country’s population was poor. If for the same year you calculate using the Tendulkar committee which has a more expansive definition or which has a more as compared to the Lakadhwala committee, takes into account the cost of acquiring more broader range of services, you will see that for the rural areas that Tendulkar committee sees that 41 percent people are poor, whereas for the urban areas it sees that 27 percent people are poor. Again you see that while at the national level only 27 percent people are poor according to Lakadhwala, according to Tendulkar 37 percent people are poor. So it took 10 percentage point increase. And again when you see the Tendulkar and the RC, you come again to the same finding that the newer committee when compared to 2009 level sees that the, according to the Tendulkar committees formula the poverty in India in 2009 is 29.8 percent or roughly 30 percent. And if you see this is a drop from 2004 and 2005. So in 5 years the poverty, according to Tendulkar committee, in the country has actually fallen from 37 percent to 30 percent at the national level, and from 30 percent it has fallen to 22 percent in 2011 and 2012. So you see there is a decline in the poverty in the country, the poverty rates in the country have declined according to both Lakadhwala as well as Tendulkar. Now Rangarajan sees in 2009, because the Rangarajan has a more inclusive definition of calculating the cost for minimum living, so the Rangarajan committee for the year 2009, for which the Tendulkar committee sees 30 percent, Rangarajan committee finds 38 percent poverty in the country. And in 2011 it finds that the poverty has decreased to 29.5 or roughly 30 percent. So again an 8 percentage point decrease in the poverty in the country over 3 years from 2009 till 2011. So this is the point I have been trying to emphasize, that over the periods, over the years, different committees have adopted a more inclusive definition of arriving at the cost of a living in both rural and urban areas but in spite of this all committees have come to a unanimous conclusion, one of the findings which has been common across all committees is that the rate of poverty over the past decade or so has actually declined. Every successive committee had identified that a larger number of people in India suffered from poverty as compared to the previous committee but they also identified the fact that over a period of time as compared to previous years, the current years are seeing a decline in the poverty in the country. So this is something that we need to understand that, you know, these are major lecture in the way we measure poverty because the cost of acquiring a large number of services today is either not taken into account. Even if they are taken into account, they are not the price of acquiring these services is not calculated on a realistic basis and they are often not indexed to inflation to account for the increase, successive increase in cost of acquiring these services over a period of time. That is one of the reasons why on the one hand the poverty rate seems to be decreasing according to every committee but on the other hand, whether we see in terms of malnourishment, or whether we see in terms of other kind of deprivation, there isn’t a very significant improvement. So while on the other hand a large number of people are earning more, this more earning isn’t translating into better education and better health.
Now the question that arises from mains point of view is, what makes the SECC or Socio Economic Caste Census different from the previous techniques of poverty measurement. The point that we are trying to hint at and you know repeatedly come to the conclusion is that the Socio Economic Caste Census today aims at directly identifying people on the basis of the different kind of deprivations they suffer from. It’s a very different approach to poverty measurement where we are not calculating the monetary based poverty line but we are calculating a poverty line on the basis of or we are trying to identify the poor on the basis of the specific deprivation that they suffer. We are not trying to arrive at a unanimous poverty line on the basis of which it is decided either somebody will get governmental benefits or somebody will not get governmental benefits. So it isn’t that kind of an approach. We are not trying to arrive at a poverty line, according to Socio Economic Caste Census but what we are trying to identify is which individual suffers from which deprivation and if he or she requires which kind of governmental assistance. So the Multidimensional Poverty Index is one of those approaches which has actually led to the whole development of the Socio Economic Caste Census. The Multidimensional Poverty Index looks again at identifying what exact nature is the deprivation that people are suffering from. For example it sees health, education and living standard as the three major dimensions along which deprivation of individuals is supposed to be measured. Now the MPI or has been proposed by international development economists and the Oxford developmental foundation. However, in India we do not follow the MPI as such but the idea behind the MPI has actually inspired also the whole idea of Socio Economic Caste Census. So the MPI actually measures deprivation along 3 categories – health, education and living standard. And it sees, for example, the child mortality rates, the nutrition rates, the number of years of schooling, the school attendance of individuals, and the ability of individuals and the cost involved in acquiring and the ability of individuals to acquire a minimum non-nutritional and non-educational needs also such as cooking fuel, their ability to access sanitation or toilet. Their ability to use access quality drinking water, electricity, clothes and assets. So this is a very elaborate way of identifying that which individuals are missing out on health, which individuals are missing out on education, which individuals do not have access to minimum quality of living standard in terms of all these facilities. So that’s a very different way of looking at poverty. So the idea here is and this is what we need to understand for our answer writing and this is what the 12th five-year plan also goes on to say that the poverty line has to be delinked from the entitlements of the people. So it isn’t, if a person has a BPL card only then they will be entitled to governmental benefits, otherwise they will not get any verbal governmental benefits because the acquisition of BPL card itself is plagued with so many errors. Rather, the understanding today has been that a large number of governmental schemes are either to be made universal or should be made universal like the right to education is a universal scheme, which does not make a distinction between BPL or a APL population, below poverty line or above poverty line relation quality and makes at least the promise of making quality governmental education available to all whether they are poor or non-poor in governmental school. At the same point of time, the right to food of the Food Security Act also understands that earlier the public distribution scheme provided cheap food and cheap food grains only to individuals predominantly in the BPL category, but this kind of a categorization and you know, linking the benefits of the public distribution scheme only to the BPL category has also been nullified as of now and except for certain individuals who are excluded from the benefits of the right to foods scheme every individual whether they have a BPL card or not is entitled to the benefits under the right to food act. And only a certain number of individual according to an exclusion criteria are not allowed to access, or are denied to access subsidized food grains from the right to food or food security act. At the same point of time you see, for example, even now there are schemes like that, Indira Awas Yojna, or the total sanitation campaign which now has turned into the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, which has required a BPL card if an individual needs monetary support for building a house or for building a toilet. To bring about a more well directed and well pointed utilization of this scheme, Socio Economic Caste Census looks at doing away with any kind of a categorization of BPL and APL, or removing the whole idea of below poverty line category and rather adopt, and this is what the 12th five-year plan talks about, the need to adopt program specific indicators for program specific entitlement. So we should have a clear data about families which do not have households to actually give them the benefit of Indira Awas Yojna. We should have the data about who all the old age people in their country who need old age pensions should be provided that in the first place. So this BPL/APL categorization has to be done away with so people who are deprived along one particular dimension, whether it is household, whether it is land, should be provided that kind of a particular support that they need. So it’s a more directed, it’s a more nuanced approach to tackling poverty rather than providing either all benefits to an individual or none, only those benefits will be directed at those individuals who are suffering from a particular kind of deprivation. The benefits of the governmental schemes should either be universal or be based on data of specific deprivation such as homelessness. That is the point that we are trying to make.
Now the Socio Economic Caste Census is based upon the N.C. Saxena committee recommendation it gave in 2009. They suggested that first of all there should be automatic exclusion of individuals who will not be the focus of the governmental schemes and these individuals will be identified and automatically excluded on the basis of their asset, or the basis of their income tax that they pay, we will be able to identify these individuals and these individuals will not be entitled to the benefit of governmental welfare schemes and so that will be the first category. And the second category of individual, just like automatically excluded, will be the ones who are suffering from acute social destitution and they will be provided the benefit of all the governmental schemes. The third category of people will be others, on the one extreme they will be people who are provided no benefits. On the other hand they will be people who are provided all the benefits. These are automatically included and these are automatically excluded. A wide variety of people will fall in the category who will be provided governmental support on a case to case basis, on the basis of the specific deprivation that they suffer from. So they will be included in the category of ‘Others’. So this is supposed to be, and to ensure that people are correctly categorized either as a automatically excluded or automatically included or present in the category of others, all this categorization will be subject to a gram sabha oversight and will be maintained in a national data registry. So information about every household will be scrutinized by the gram sabha in a village and this will be maintained in a national data level database or a registry.
So the Socio Economic Caste Census, if we see now that we see the Socio Economic Caste Census actually adopts the 3 categories suggested by the N.C. Saxena committee and was commissioned by the UPA in 2011. Some of the aspects are that it takes up the idea of automatic exclusion/inclusion and specific deprivation on the basis of 7 categories and criteria that we will see. At the other hand that is the socio economic part of it. The caste part of it, for the first time after 1931, aims at identifying to what extent individuals belonging to different castes have actually gained from governmental initiative and basically tries to enumerate the caste of all individuals in India and what is their economic position, not just the caste of all individuals in India but also what is the economic position of different castes and sub castes in India. And this is happening, the whole idea of caste census is happening for the first time after 1931. And the important idea here is, why we want to do the caste census in the first place is that it will help in identifying to what extent different caste and sub castes have actually gained from governmental initiatives and will help in refining and focusing the benefit of caste based affirmative action to those castes which require governmental support and those castes which have already, and individuals belonging only to those castes which have already gained from governmental initiatives will be taken out of the, and will no longer be eligible for the benefits of reservation policy. So to that extent this is again a landmark and a very significant move in terms of defining the reservation policy of the country.
So the automatic exclusion as well as the inclusion criteria followed for the SECC, we will look into that now. But before we go any further let me just point that out to you some of the information as of now. Firstly the data given by the SECC, as of now, is limited only to the rural areas and the total number of rural households identified are actually 17.1 crores. So 17.1 crore rural houses have been identified and out of these 17.1 crore rural households, almost 1 percent of the households are actually considered to be automatically included and 40 percent of the households have been automatically excluded. So what basically this boils down to is that 7 crore households have been automatically excluded as they are considered having enough material resources to take care of their both nutritional as well as non-nutritional needs and so 40 percent of the households have been automatically excluded from any kinds of eligibility for welfare for governmental schemes. That may require, that will not be of a universalistic nature. Remember, a large number of governmental schemes today are of a universalistic nature and they do not require, even today, any kind of a BPL category card. For example, if an individual in a rural area wants to take work in NREGA, they can take up work in NREGA in rural areas because it is a universalistic scheme that every individual from one rural household is entitled to at least 100 days of work. For example, NRHM (National Rural Health Mission) provides free of cost healthcare facilities in the rural areas or for that matter now you see the right to education. So these are all universalistic schemes. The whole exclusion and inclusion, automatically exclusion and inclusion criteria is based for directed schemes such as for example the Indira Awas Yojna, or maybe for the total sanitation campaign, or what is understood as a Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. So the automatic exclusion criteria which has been devised for the SECC is basically that firstly if an individual owns a vehicle, if an individual owns a kisan credit card, that is meant for taking agricultural credit with a limit of more than Rs.50,000. So if an individual is entitled to agricultural credit of more than Rs.50,000 they will also not be considered for specific government directed schemes. At the same point of time, if an individual is a governmental employee, then also they will not be considered for the benefits of those governmental schemes which are directed only towards specific individuals described in certain parameters. At the same point of time any individual earning more than 10000 per month, any individual paying an income tax, any individual paying a professional tax, any individual who has a house with a roof and with more 3 rooms is also automatically excluded from any kind of a benefit. Any individual who is an owner of a refrigerator, owns a land line, or any individual who owns irrigated land over a certain limit is also automatically excluded.
Whereas individuals who are automatically included, almost 1 percent of the rural households have been automatically included. Of some of the most poorest section of the households in the country, families which do not have a house of their own, individuals who are destitute or do not have anyone to take care of them and who are living on beggary, individuals who are manual scavengers, individuals who are legally releases bonded laborers and individuals belonging to primitive tribal groups. These are the five criteria – individuals who belong to any of these groups actually are automatically considered entitled for all those governmental schemes which are directed only towards particular individuals.
Now the deprivation criteria apart from the automatically excluded and automatically included, there is another category of ‘others’. And these are the individuals who will be considered for specific governmental schemes. They are actually 60 percent of the rural households, or 10 crore of the rural households. And what comes to the light is that, you know, there are 7 criteria for measurement of intensity of deprivation. There may be an individual who may have only one of these deprivations, it may be an individual who may have two, three, four, five, six or seven deprivation. So it measures one important point from the mains point of view, is that SECC has a very nuanced way of measuring poverty because it measures, it doesn’t categorize individuals only as poor or non-poor, but it also looks at the intensity of poverty that an individual is suffering from. So, for example, when we see the 7 criteria, one of the main criteria is individuals who do not have access to households or do not have a house of their own. What the SECC findings of individual level house survey finds it that 32.5 percent of the families do not have a house of their own. It says 16 or 17 crore households actually do not have even one educated member above the age of 25 years so that’s again a very stark deficiency when we look at level of illiteracy in the country. And finally one of the most important crucial findings is that 30 percent of the rural households, or every 1 out of every 3 rural households does not have land of its own and in spite of the fact that the rural economies predominantly dependent on agriculture, every 1 out of every 3 family does not own a land of its own and is dependent upon manual casual labor for its survival. So that’s another important finding. We need to understand is that when we look at the major Socio Economic Caste Census findings what we find is that over 90 percent of the rural households do not earn more than Rs.10,000 a month. And even more than 75% of the rural households do not earn more than Rs.7500 a month. So you see the level of income deprivation even in the rural households that even 90% of the rural households do not have the highest earning member who earns more than Rs.10,000 a month. At the same point of time we see, for example, another data with respect to literacy that only just over 3% of the households at the rural level have an individual who has studied more than a graduation level. So out every 100 rural houses, only 3 houses have individuals who are graduates. So that’s again a very stark problem with respect to literacy and when we see at the basic literacy level also you see that less than 10% of the households have individuals who have completed higher education or above. So again you see this is the lag effect of the level of illiteracy that the country hasn’t been able to deal with till now in a decisive manner. It is only very recently that the right education act itself has been introduced. Also when you see that more than 50% of the households in the rural areas actually rely on manual labor or casual labor and less than 10% of the households have individuals who have salaried jobs in the rural areas. So again high level of dependence upon agriculture and less amount of salaried employment in the rural sector is another finding that comes out. And more than 50% individuals have no land and less than 5% households own any kind of agricultural equipment and when you look at this finding with the fact that less than 4% of households in the agriculture sector in rural areas have access to agricultural credit of over Rs.50,000. What do you find? You find that of all the families involved in agriculture in rural areas, only or even less than 4% families have access to agricultural credit of more than Rs.50,000. And so when you look at these two particular data, what do you find? You find an access to finance at cheap rates is still a mirage for a large number of people involved in agriculture in rural areas and the modernization of agriculture itself hasn’t progressed so a very large extent when you see only 5% of the households in the rural areas actually have agricultural equipment and so you see there is a very large unmet need for agricultural credit as well as for mechanization and for using more technologies in agriculture in the rural areas. So these are some of the major findings of the SECC because the SECC findings till now that have been given out are basically meant for the rural areas only and the findings of the SECC for the urban areas are yet to be made public.
So keeping this mind and we keep the importance of both the NSS survey and SECC survey in mind we need to understand that NSS and SECC are meant to serve different purposes. The purpose of the NSS surveys is to track whether the poverty levels in the country have actually increased or decreased in the past few decades, while the relevance of the SECC survey is to identify individuals and households which need governmental support and what exact nature of governmental support do they need. Do they need help or a credit for sanitation, do they need credit for buying a piece of land or do they need credit for agricultural activities or do they need access to funds for building their own households or what basically the SECC survey does is that it helps us to identify which individual needs, which kind of a public support from the governmental machinery in terms of eligibility for welfare schemes.
So that is the whole context and finally from an answer writing perspective we should also be aware of what are the major critiques of the SECC data. So one of the major deficiencies with respect to the validity and accuracy of the data is that the Socio Economic and the Caste data have actually been collected after individual level household surveys, and these surveys initially were supposed to be conducted by the census commissioner of India, but later this responsibility was given to the state level agencies which have been given the task of going and conducting household level surveys. Now what is the problem here is that this is the problem, although also seen with the BPL surveys before that there can be cases of false exclusion and inclusion and to ensure that their no cases of false exclusion and inclusion, these data has been made available on the public domain on the website of the government and individuals in state by as well as existed by fashion and individuals who feel that inaccurate information has been uploaded about their particular household, they can object to it and get it corrected. So the provisional nature of the data and fears regarding the reliability of the socio economic data is the first major concern. The second is the release, is the delay in the release of the caste data. The caste data has yet to be released and that is one of the major criticisms also because only the socio economic part has been released and not data pertaining to the status of different caste groups in India and their socio economic positions. And finally also is the question about the reliability of the caste data itself because the caste data has been collected by the state level agencies and there have been significant questions whether the data has been reported accurately or not. So these are same major concerns with respect to the validity and reliability of the SECC’s data.
And to conclude, what we need to understand here is that for bridging the divide of all poverty what we need are well focused and well targeted social services, complimented with certain social benefit schemes which are universal in their orientations, especially the right to education, the food security act and also we need a universal form of healthcare. These services are to be available to one and all so as to ensure the development of every individual in the society but at the same point of time there may be other governmental schemes which may require specific focus and whose benefit will be directed only towards those individuals who are found deprived on those particular dimensions, for example, schemes for homeless individuals, for example, old age individuals etc. etc. So in that case the social services schemes have to be more sufficiently targeted to help individuals bridge the poverty divide and lead a more sustainable and production life. So this is an important topic from the mains point of view and do try and revise this topic before you go for writing the main examination. Thank you.