The Census of the population Below the Poverty Line (BPL), meant to determine the number of the poor, has found close to half the rural population to so qualify, as against a 28 per cent ratio estimated by the Planning Commission, say sources in the rural development ministry.
The BPL census found 48 per cent of the population eligible for automatic exclusion from the category of the poor - they either had motorised vehicles, pucca houses, government jobs, landed wealth or members earning at least Rs 10,000 a month.
The BPL census is scheduled to be completed in the next three to four months, former chief economic advisor K L Datta, who has been assisting the operations on behalf of the rural ministry told Business Standard.
When states have to give ration cards, he said, the eligible population would be chosen on the basis of the deprived people identified by the BPL census. He said states would have the freedom to choose their poverty estimates from either data, though the census gives household-wise data on poverty or various factors leading to poverty.
Datta said a BPL census usually takes four years to complete. The ongoing one might take only half that time, as enumeration was being done with computers.
The ministry had commissioned the census in July 2011, after an experts' committee set up by it under N C Saxena (its former secretary) gave a list of recommendations on the criteria for identifying the poor. The census guidelines were later finalised on the basis of a separate project, discarding Saxena's suggestions.
The new guidelines listed a set of deprivations on the basis of which households were to be identified as poor, and certain other factors on the basis of which were to be identified as being not poor.
The BPL census of 1992 had identified 52 per cent of rural families as poor. The one in 1997 identified about 42 per cent as poor. The third census was done in 2002 but its results did not replace the earlier findings.