Urban BPL Survey is Expected to Enable the Effective Design and Delivery of Inclusive Programmes for the Urban Poor

“The vision of the Ministry of Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation is as follows: ‘An equitable, inclusive and sustainable civic sensitive growth of towns and cities free from slums, which provides means of productive employment, dignity and a decent quality of life to all inhabitants, including the poor’. In this regard, the Ministry of Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation operates the following schemes targeting the urban poor: namely Swarna Jayanti Shahari Rozgar Yojana (SJSRY) for livelihoods, Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) for basic services to the urban poor; and Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY) for a slum-free India. Additionally, the Government of India, across other line ministries, run national programmes such as food security, that aim to deliver nutrition, livelihoods and decent shelter and services to the urban poor.

To date, State & Union Territory Governments had devised their own criteria/methodology to conduct BPL surveys, either on the basis of state-specific criteria for urban areas, or based on rural BPL surveys conducted and NSSO data. This does not provide a realistic/reliable picture or a statistical estimate of the BPL population in urban areas.

For SJSRY, the Ministry of Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation had adopted a habitat-based approach with data on slum population in towns, obtained through a survey across 1961 towns. While this is useful in enabling the targeting of shelter and services towards people living in slums, not all the poor live in slums; nor is everyone living in slums, poor.

A reliable methodology for identification of the urban poor is critical to the effective implementation of various poverty alleviation programmes. In order to evolve a uniform methodology for identification of urban BPL in the context of the 12th Plan, the Planning Commission, in May 2010, constituted an Expert Group under the Chairmanship of Professor S. R. Hashim to recommend the detailed methodology for identification of BPL families in the urban areas. Based on analysis and discussions, the Expert Group has submitted an Interim Report in May 2011 recommending the adoption of a set of objective and verifiable indicators for the identification of the urban poor. The Expert Group has recommended that poverty be identified in urban areas through the identification of specific ‘vulnerabilities’ covering three broad categories namely, residential, occupational and social.

Those who are houseless, live in Kuchha/temporary houses where usage of dwelling space is susceptible to insecurity of tenure and are affected by lack of access to basic services are considered residentially vulnerable. Houses with people unemployed for a significant proportion of time, or with irregular/uncertain duration of employment or whose employment is subject to hazardous/unsanitary conditions and/or have no stability of payment for services are considered to be occupationally vulnerable. Those households headed by women or minors, or where the old are dependent on the head of household, and/or where the level of literacy is low, and/or where members are disabled and/or chronically ill are considered socially vulnerable.

It was felt that extensive exclusion criteria in the form of income and/or consumption were complex issues, and in a survey of this scale, the quality of responses would not be guaranteed, nor would successful disaggregation be possible. Further, the process of focusing on income and consumption was likely to result in significant inclusion and exclusion errors.

The expert group is yet to finalise the detailed methodology for an ordinal ranking of the poor on the basis of severest to less severe vulnerability The group is expected to submit its final recommendations on the methodology for analysis based on the following based on:

• The urban BPL survey,
• Pilots covering a mix of cities/towns to field test the methodology,
Survey of small and medium towns and
• NSSO surveys and other available data

This would enable the linking of the BPL survey with the National Population Register (NPR) data for programmatic purposes. The Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation will provide technical support to the State /Union Territory Governments for conducting the BPL survey. It is anticipated that the entire process will be completed by end of 2011-12.

The urban BPL survey is expected to enable the effective design and delivery of inclusive programmes for the urban poor and allow for more effective targeting, and delivery of urban poverty alleviation schemes/programmes thereby minimizing leakages and wasteful expenditures through the preparation of the latest lists of households living below the poverty line.”

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