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Update caste study data often to avoid errors in picking welfare beneficiaries, study says

The fact that SECC data is not supposed to get updated for 10 years means that several people unduly get or are denied benefits of government schemes.

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New Delhi: A study commissioned by the Union Ministry of Rural Development has recommended frequent updation of Socio Economic Caste Census (SECC) data, saying there have been “serious errors” in the selection of beneficiaries for government schemes based on it.

The study, which was conducted as part of the fifth Common Review Mission (CRM) for “independent assessment” of government programmes and schemes under the rural development ministry, noted that “there have been serious errors of exclusion and inclusion and as such it may be risk to base selection of beneficiaries for any schemes only on basis of these lists”.

SECC 2011 was a novel exercise, which sought to identify poverty through a multi-dimensional lens, using factors like occupation, education, disability, possession of assets, the type of house owned, SC/ST status and employment. The exercise was started in 2011 and concluded in 2015. It covered 24.49 crore households and was conducted door-to-door. The next SECC is scheduled to commence in 2021.

The study, meanwhile, was conducted by a 31-member team led by Rajeev Kapoor, a retired IAS officer and Uttar Pradesh information commissioner, and was submitted to the ministry last month. The team consisted of retired bureaucrats, academics and research organisations, and visited up to 120 villages in more than 21 districts across eight states — Meghalaya, Odisha, Kerala, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur and Uttar Pradesh — in November 2019.

ThePrint reached Kapoor through a phone call, but he did not wish to comment. Rural development ministry spokesperson Alpana Pant did not respond to text messages seeking comment.

Also read: Karnataka lags behind the rest of India on many rural & urban indicators: SECC data

‘Striking loophole’

Sources familiar with the study said the fact that SECC data does not get updated for 10 years means that several people unduly get or are denied benefits of government schemes.

“There is a chance that someone who did not have a house in 2011 has one now, yet because the SECC data is not updated, they will be considered eligible for the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana-Grameen (PMAY-G), for example,” the source said.

“The study does not recommend how frequently the SECC data should be updated because that was not the mandate, but it is a striking loophole that makes room for serious errors,” the source added.

According to sources, several discrepancies emerged in the study with regard to the central rural housing scheme PMAY-G, under which the government had planned to construct one crore houses in the first phase from 2016-19. So far, 97.9 lakh houses have been sanctioned, and 84.80 lakh completed.

The study also observed that the Saansad Adarsh Gram Yojana (SAGY), under which MPs adopt villages in their constituencies and seek to turn them into model villages, has not had any “significant impact”.

“In many of SAGY villages, the Hon’ble MP did not give any significant money from Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS),” the study states. “In isolated cases, where MPs have been pro-active, some infrastructure development has taken place, but the scheme has not made any perceptible impact. As such, these villages cannot be called Model (‘Adarsh’) villages.”

Also read: CAG flags widespread irregularities in Modi govt’s marquee LPG scheme


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