The Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY)- the scheme to give free LPG connections to the poorest households was termed a game changer for the ruling party in Uttar Pradesh because of its popularity as a pro-poor move. Now, the Modi government wants to replicate its success for all the other welfare schemes, especially the ones implemented by the Rural Development Ministry.
The PMUY owes much of its success to the data provided by the Socio Economic Caste Census 2011 or SECC that helped the Petroleum Ministry, along with the State governments, accurately identify the households in need of an LPG connection.
The SECC data identifies nearly 9 crore households as “deprived’’ as per the different deprivation indicators used for the Census.
The Rural Development Ministry wants to make these households the focus of all their welfare schemes.
The Ministry has already started using the SECC data to give direct financial assistance to build low-cost houses to the poor under the PM Awas Yojana, electricity connection under the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Power Scheme, build toilets under the Swachh Bharat Mission and prepare Labour Budgets under the Rural Employment Guarantee Act.
“The SECC data is agnostic to one’s caste, religion or community. If you are poor and in need of government help, you will get,” a senior official in the Rural Development Ministry told The Media.
The next welfare scheme based on the data could be the health scheme announced by the Finance M inister in the 2016 budget but hadn’t yet taken off. “The proposed National Health Protection Scheme will also use SECC data to identify beneficiaries,” said the official.
Officials point out that as the Modi government heads to 2019 elections, there is a “conscious attempt” to change its core political constituency. “If you want to be known as the government for the poor, you have to ensure that your schemes reach the right people,” said another senior official.
Social activists say the data is more reliable but for welfare schemes to have better reach, the government should increase social sector spending.
“It is laudable that the government is using the SECC data. However insofar as social sector schemes are concerned, the situation will not improve unless the size of the envelope increases. There is no such thing as fiscal-neutral development. The sooner the government realises this, the better,” said Biraj Patnaik, social activist who assisted the Supreme Court in the Right to Food case.