By bappaditya paul
The upcoming panchayat polls will further delay the publication of a new list of Below Poverty Line (BPL) people in Bengal as the state government officials who are to process the draft list of the Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC) will be busy in the election process.The new BPL list that was to be published last December is to be worked out on the basis of the SECC findings. The SECC is being conducted on the basis of 23 parameters for rural areas and 15 for urban areas covering topics such as household income, land ownership, amenities at home etc.
The delay in publication of a new BPL list will deprive a vast number of poor in the state of several benefits such as subsidised rations, financial assistance to construct house and other welfare schemes.
The SECC in the state was started in January 2012 and till 2 May 2013, 99.60 per cent of the 178,223 enumeration blocks have been covered.
While Haryana, Nagaland, Lakshadweep and the Daman and Diu have already published the draft list of SECC, West Bengal is one of the seven states in the country where the enumeration has been progressing at a slow pace due to various reasons, including software glitches and problems in duplication of related data from the National Population Register.
Mr Sourav Das, principal secretary of the state panchayat and rural development department, responsible for the SECC in rural Bengal, maintained that his department completed the enumeration in the rural areas in February itself. “As far as we are concerned we have completed our task; the remaining enumeration blocks could be lying in the urban areas,” he said.
When contacted over the issue, B P Gopalika, secretary in the municipal affairs department responsible for the SECC in urban Bengal, said he could not readily refer to the latest status but said “the work is progressing very fast.”
Once the enumeration is complete in both rural and the urban areas, only then can the draft list of the SECC be published.
Going by the stipulated norms, designated officials at the gram panchayat/ block levels will have to receive objections/modifications to the draft list 21 days from the date of its publication. Next in the process is hearing the objections/modifications wherever necessary and then publishing the final SECC list within 45 days of the publication of the draft list.
In the SECC process, district magistrate functions as principal census officer, additional district magistrate as district nodal officer, executive magistrate as officer in-charge, sub-divisional officer as supervisory officer, block development officer as hearing officers and the GP secretary/assistant is to perform the task of field inquiry wherever required.
But since almost all of them will remain involved with the upcoming panchayat poll, the state government will not be able to publish the draft SECC list until the election is over tentatively by 15 July. “It is a fact that the draft list cannot be published before the panchayat poll is over,” the state panchayat and rural development department principal secretary, Mr Das, said on record.
Going by this, there is remote chance of the new BPL list in Bengal being published before August-end to early September.
At present, there are 68 lakh rural families in the state who feature in the existing BPL list, last updated in 2007.
(The author is Senior Reporter, The Statesman, India. This report first appeared in The Statesman on 15 May 2013.)