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Posts Tagged ‘Census’

Guesstimating Access to Food Security

April 7th, 2010 1 comment

The empowered group of ministers (EGoM) met recently to review the draft food security bill. Two issues have been reported to have gained prominence in their discussions – the exact number of poor families that are likely to be beneficiaries under the Food Security Act and reforming of the targeted public distribution system.

On the issue of estimating poverty, it is reported that the Planning Commission has been asked to submit a report in three weeks on the number of  (BPL) families that are likely to be legally entitled to food under the said Act.

The Minister of Agriculture is reported to have said “It is up to them [Planning Commission] whether they base it [BPL list] on the Tendulkar Committee report or the earlier N.C. Saxena panel or the Wadhwa committee.”

The estimation of poor persons in India involves two broad steps:

(i) fixing a threshold or poverty line that establishes poverty, and

(ii) counting the number of people below this line.

Estimating these numbers is a contentious issue – ridden by debates around norms and parameters for defining poverty, methodology to estimate poverty, etc.

The Planning Commission estimates the percentage and number of BPL persons separately in rural and urban areas from a large sample survey conducted by the National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) which operates under the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.

In addition various government social sector schemes are targeted specifically at the poor and require the government to identify BPL beneficiaries.  For this purpose the Ministry of Rural Development designs a BPL census and that is conducted by the States/UTs.  The BPL census website gives data on BPL households for 2002 based on the poverty estimates for 1999-2000, by state, district and block.

The targeted public distribution system was recently subjected to scrutiny by a Supreme Court appointed vigilance committee headed by Justice D P Wadhwa. Amongst many issues, the committee reported that “the PDS is inefficient and corrupt.  There is diversion and black-marketing of PDS food grain in large scale.  Subsidized PDS food grain does not reach the poor who desperately need the same.  These poor people never get the PDS food grain in proper quantity and quality.”

The two issues highlighted here are important to ensure that the proposed legislation on food security is not a leaky bucket in the making.   As the draft food security bill is not in the public domain it is difficult to comment on how the government is thinking on length and breadth of issues that govern giving access to food security.

India commences Census 2011

April 1st, 2010 1 comment

Census 2011 or the 15th National Census, a gigantic exercise to capture the socio-economic and cultural profile of India’s population, began on April 1, 2010.  India undertakes this exercise every 10 years through the Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner in the Ministry of Home Affairs.  The census documents details of a billion plus population on diverse subjects such as demography, literacy, fertility and mortality and provides primary data at village, town and ward level.

The first census ever to take place in India was in 1872 and the last one was held in 2001.  The Census of India Act, 1948 lays down the rules and regulations pertaining to conduct of a census.  The Act makes it obligatory for the public to answer all the questions faithfully while guaranteeing the confidentiality of the information.

The last census was held in 2001, which revealed that India’s population was about 1.03 billion.  Statistical data related to literacy rate, sex-ratio, urban-rural distribution, religious composition, SC/ST population and so on were captured by Census 2001.

Features of Census 2011

Census process: India uses the canvasser method for collecting census data.  Under this method, the canvasser approaches every household and records the answer on the schedules himself after ascertaining the particulars from the head of the household or other knowledgeable persons in the household.  The full detail of the methodology is available here.

National Population Register (NPR): It would be a register or database of residents of the country.  The government states that such a database would facilitate better targeting of the benefits and services under government schemes and programmes; improve planning and help strengthen the security of the country.  The register is being created under the provisions of the Citizenship Act and Rules.

NPR process: Basic details such as name, date of birth and sex shall be gathered by visiting each household of a resident of the country. A database shall be created with addition of biometric information such as photograph, 10 fingerprints and probably Iris information for all persons aged 15 years and above.  The list shall be sent to the Unique Identity Authority of India (UIDAI) for de-duplication and issue of UID Numbers.  The cleaned database along with the UID Number would form the National Population Register.

There was a controversy over whether Census 2011 should capture caste data.  Since India last collected caste data in 1931, proponents argued that up-to-date, reliable caste data was essential to target welfare schemes towards various backward castes. Opponents however contended that this would perpetuate the caste system.  The government finally decided not to include caste as one of the parameters in the 2011 census.

Table 1: Schedule of Census 2011

Schedule State/UT
April 1 New Delhi (NDMC area), West Bengal, Assam,  Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Goa, Meghalaya, Bihar, Jharkhand
April 7 Kerala, Lakshadweep, Orissa, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim
April 15 Karnataka, Arunachal Pradesh, Chandigarh
April 21 Gujarat, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Daman & Diu
April 26 Tripura, Andhra Pradesh
May 1 Haryana, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Punjab, Uttaranchal, Maharashtra
May 7 Madhya Pradesh
May 15 J & K, Manipur, Mizoram, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh
June 1 Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Nagaland