Unreleased data from the first urban Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC), tabulated as per criteria laid down by the erstwhile Planning Commission’s expert Hashim committee, shows that roughly 35 per cent of urban Indian households live below poverty line (BPL).
This amounts to 22 million households of the total 63 million households surveyed in 4,041 statutory cities and towns across the country.
The data shows that, as per BPL parameters set by the panel headed by former Planning Commission member S R Hashim, the highest per cent of urban BPL households are in the north-eastern states of Manipur (54.95 per cent of its total population) and Mizoram (52.35 per cent) followed by Bihar (49.82 per cent). The least proportion of urban poor are in Goa (16 per cent) followed by the Union Territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Delhi, both at 18 per cent.
In 2011-12, the Planning Commission had estimated 26.4 per cent of urban India’s total population to be poor as per the methodology laid down by the Rangarajan committee. The Tendulkar panel’s yardsticks put that figure at 13.7 per cent. In absolute numbers, this comes to 102.5 million and 53.1 million people respectively.
“Assuming an average household size of five people, the total number of people falling in the urban BPL list, as per the Hashim panel criteria, is approximately 110 million. This is closer to the estimate arrived at using the Rangarajan panel’s methodology,” an official said.
The corresponding SECC figures for rural India were released earlier this month by the Rural Development Ministry. It painted a worrying picture — rural India accounted for 73 per cent households and 74 per cent of these survived on a monthly income of less than Rs 5,000 of its highest earner.
This is the first time that such a survey has been carried out in urban India to identify beneficiaries of food security Act, pension scheme and other welfare schemes.
The Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation (HUPA) has still not made the data public. Officials said this is because the final decision on the deprivation criteria for identifying beneficiaries of schemes is still pending.
“Also, a call has to be taken as to who will take this decision. The Planning Committee had given its in-principle nod to the Hashim panel’s final report but now that it is no longer in place, we have to decide whether the final approval has to be given by the HUPA ministry or, since it concerns beneficiaries across all government schemes, whether it will have to be approved by the cabinet or the Niti Aayog Task Force on Elimination of Poverty,” an official said.
The SECC has identified the urban poor through a three-step process recommended by the Hashim panel. In the first stage, households are automatically excluded if they live in a house with four or more rooms, have either an AC, four-wheeler or computer with internet or possess any three of the four assets such as refrigerator, landline phone, washing machine or two-wheeler.
Of the remaining households, all those families are automatically included as poor if they face vulnerability due to residential, social or occupational factors such as homelessness, disability or being employed as domestic or sanitation workers among other criteria.
In the third stage, households that are neither excluded or included are ranked on a scoring index of 0 to 12 based on various factors where 12 is the most vulnerable. The Hashim panel has suggested that those households scoring between 4 to 12 should be added to the automatically included category and these together would comprise the urban BPL group.
However, the panel has left it to the government to identify beneficiaries by varying the poverty threshold, depending on the resources available to assist the urban poor.
Hashim vs Rangarajan vs Tendulkar
# 35% urban BPL in SECC data calculated as per Hashim panel criteria
# Rangarajan method said urban poor 26.4%, Tendulkar panel 13.57%
# Highest BPL households in Manipur (54.95%), Mizoram (52.35%), Bihar (49.82%)
# Urban poor least in Goa (16%), Dadra and Nagar Haveli (18%), Delhi (18%)