Caste census likely to be ready by July:Jairam

New Delhi:The socio-economic caste census, which will be used to identify beneficiaries of various social welfare schemes, including the proposed food law, could only be completed by July-end, according to Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh.

Last month, Food Minister K V Thomas had written a letter to the Rural Development Minister seeking an updated status of SECC (Socio-Economic Caste Census) 2011, and also requested the ministries concerned to complete the survey soon to facilitate the implementation of the proposed food law.

"… there is simply no way we will be able to complete SECC 2011 by end-June, 2012. Even this, in my view is a little optimistic. More realistically, we would expect SECC to be completed by end-July, 2012," Ramesh said in a letter to Food Minister K V Thomas.

The SECC, which was initiated in June last year, has not made big progress in many states. The process has not even started in some states. While the Ministry of Rural Development is coordinating the survey to identify households in rural areas, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation is looking into identification of households in urban areas.

The Food Bill aims to give legal entitlement to cheaper foodgrains to 75 per cent of the people in rural areas, including at least 46 per cent in the priority sections. Up to 50 per cent of people in urban centres will be covered under the proposed law, of which at least 28 per cent will be in the priority category.

Ramesh said that the earlier deadline of December 2011 has been slipped badly due to local elections in Orissa and Maharasthra and assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh, Manipur, Goa and Uttarakhand. Floods in Odisha have also added to delays. The Rural Development Minister said the delay has also been due to certain operations-related problems as the government was using the latest technology for the first time in a survey operation of such a gargantuan magnitude, he added.

He further mentioned that there was delay in production and supply of handheld devices (tablet PCs) due to inadequate supply of components and software glitches.
SECC 2011 is being conducted using low-cost tablet PC specially designd by Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) for collection and dissemination of data.

Stating that conducting census is a massive operation, Ramesh said that much of time has gone in training 12 lakh personnel. Besides 6,00,000 enumerators and data entry operators, 1.06 lakh supervisors, 0.16 lakh master trainers and thousands of state government officials are engaged in the census.