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[Hunger General] INDIA: Corruption and neglect excludes the poor and migrants Below the Poverty Line (BPL) families

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is writing to draw your attention to the corruption that is excluding the poor from Below the Poverty Line (BPL) family list. BPL families are expected to receive benefits from government programmes guaranteeing the right to food. The human rights organization, SPREAD based in Koraput District, Orissa recently conducted fact-finding research which disclosed that many poor families are not in the BPL list and some relevant data has been manipulated. Despite the corruption discovered in BPL validation, the governments involved do not have substantial mechanisms to root it out. This is one of the causes of failure in alleviating poverty as well as ensuring food security. The Orissa government intends to conduct a BPL survey from November 2009.

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - HUNGER ALERT PROGRAMME

Hunger Alert General: AHRC-HAG-004-2009



19 October 2009
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INDIA: Corruption and neglect excludes the poor and migrants Below the Poverty Line (BPL) families

ISSUES: Right to food, poverty; corruption; discrimination
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Dear Friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is writing to draw your attention to the corruption that is excluding the poor from Below the Poverty Line (BPL) family list. BPL families are expected to receive benefits from government programmes guaranteeing the right to food. The human rights organization, SPREAD based in Koraput District, Orissa recently conducted fact-finding research which disclosed that many poor families are not in the BPL list and some relevant data has been manipulated. Despite the corruption discovered in BPL validation, the governments involved do not have substantial mechanisms to root it out. This is one of the causes of failure in alleviating poverty as well as ensuring food security. The Orissa government intends to conduct a BPL survey from November 2009.

CASE DETAILS:

The Family of Mr. Damu Disari, head of the village council of Dandabadi village, Baipariguda Block in Koraput District has been classified as Below the Poverty Line (BPL). According to the BPL survey conducted in 2002 his household’s only source of income was from his migrant labor with a monthly income of about 250 rupees (USD 5.4). However, the fact-finding research conducted recently by SPREAD shows that Mr. Disari's family has 30 acres of land and that they are engaged in agriculture and other business from which they earn, on average, 8000 rupees (USD 173) per month.

The BPL point survey is based on a score raging from 0 to 52 points depending on 13 indicators each of which has 4 points attached and assigns a level of deprivation. The lower the score the more the family is exposed to poverty. The government’s BPL survey of Mr. Disari gave him 11 points classifying his household as BPL family while the research suggests around 25 points.

Mr. G. Kitu living in Panasput village, Baipariguda Block is another case. The 2002 BPL survey, scoring 10 for his household, shows that he is the only income source working as a migrant laborer and the average monthly income is between 500 to 1499 rupees (USD 11 to 32). Whereas the research conducted by SPREAD discovered that his family has 10 acres of land under cultivation and he was working as a contractor, engaging in transportation and other businesses. His monthly income is 10,000 rupees (USD 216) and he also has other assets including a tractor. An accurate assessment shows that Mr. G. Kitu's household has more than 30 points.

Conversely, Mr. Ghasidhangda Majhi of Panganpani village, Baipariguda Block and Mr. Ratan Khora of Jodaamba village, Baipariguda Block received 14 and 16 points respectively. Both of them do not hold land and are employed as daily wage laborers. Mr. Ghasidhangda’s family earns around 300 rupees (USD 6.5) per month and the monthly income of Mr. Ratan’s family is around 300 rupees against between 500 to 1499 rupee dimensions recorded by an official survey. The fact-finding suggests that they should be scored between six to eight points.

As a result, since the first two families, Disari and Kitu, had less points than the other two families, they could be classified as BPL families. This eliminated the Majhi and the Khora families out of the BPL families.

The cases disclosing considerable differences are not the result of a mistake. Hunger Alerts over the past years have observed that poor families whose children suffer from malnutrition caused by lack of food have not been classified as BPL. Those who have influence in the village, such as the village head, with the help of government officials, intentionally manipulate survey data to derive personal benefits from programmes for BPL families. These cases are representative of a widespread level of corruption and negligence around this issue. However, the extent of erroneous data has not been fully unearthed.

According to SPREAD, there are poor village families who are not classified as BPL families. And it is reported that twelve villages in the forest areas in Nuapada district are not on the official BPL list. The quotas on total numbers of BPL families also lead to many families being eliminated from the scheme as their places are being taken by other families that do not rightly qualify.

Many poor villagers, particularly in Orissa, are forced to migrate to other districts or states to seek jobs to feed their families. Migrant labor has been one of the major ways to earn a living among the poor who are mostly landless. From November to January, the period the BLP survey was conducted, the BPL survey enumerator, allegedly could not collect data from the households who had already migrated. The 2002 BPL survey left them out of qualifying as BPL families. Instead, they were categorized as inappropriate households, thus showing forth the neglect and the corruption in the government because it failed to identify the poor.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION:

The accurate identification of the BPL family is the most basic and significant factor in which to implement government policies guaranteeing the right to food for the poor. Rural families identified as BPL have been eligible for government support. This support takes the form of subsidized food under the Public Food Distribution System (PDS), electricity, and housing construction scheme, all of which are essential public programs ensuring food security.

As it has been shown in Hunger Alerts released by the AHRC to date, the rural families who have had to comfort malnourished children and suffered from starvation were either not identified as BPL or deprived of the benefits of BPL. Both instances are due to corrupt public officials and influential villagers such as upper caste persons discriminating against lower a caste or tribal community.

The Government of India has been identifying BPL since 1992. Initially income data was the only indicator to identify BPL. However, in 1997, the government adopted certain criteria to exclude visibly non-poor from BPL. This was based on basic socio-demographic information, household characteristics and consumption expenditure over the last 30 days. In 2002, the government undertook initiatives to identify BPL families that are poor in many other areas. Rural families were categorized as BPL families on the basis of 13 kinds of deprivations; operational holding of land, house, average availability of regular clothing, food security, sanitation, ownership of consumer durables (TV, electric fan, radio, pressure cooker), literacy status of the highest literate adult, status of the household labor force, means of livelihood, status of children, type of indebtedness, reason for migration from household, preference of assistance. Each item receives zero to four in assessing the deprivation.

The Orissa government distributed guidelines for the validation of the BPL survey on September 30, 2009. It noted that it must be ensured that the Scheduled Tribes including the Primitive Tribal Groups, Scheduled Castes, Women-headed households, daily wage earners, families having disabled children and persons with HIV/AIDS, get priority during the validation process. To carry out these guidelines ensuring priority of vulnerable communities, the government needs both concrete methods and the cooperation of civil society. Human rights groups working on the right to food, in particular, express their concern about how the government collects data on the families that have migrated. It is important that correct data be collected on all households without the influence of corruption.

The government should create a space for public discussion with groups from civil society and solicit the cooperation of these groups. If the government fails to identify the poor, malnutrition and poverty cannot be eradicated. Malnutrition and poverty will never be alleviated by ignoring the right to food for all.

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please write letters to the concerned authorities below urging them to root out the corruption in the BPL survey and to set up a method to get accurate data on the families that have currently migrated.

The AHRC will also write letter to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food requesting intervention into the issue.

To support this appeal, please click here:

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear __________,

Re: INDIA: Please root out the corruption and neglect of government officials manipulating the BPL list

Families denied food security: those not on the BPL list but entitled
People depriving affected families of the right to food: government officials in charge of the BPL survey
Place: Koraput District, Orissa

I am writing to express my concern that the below the poverty line (BPL) survey has excluded authentic poor and migrant families due to corrupt practices by negligent government officials. The accurate identification of the BPL family is the most basic and significant factor tin the implementation of government policies guaranteeing the right to food for the poor.

SPREAD, a local human rights group based in Koraput, Orissa, conducted a fact-finding survey. Their report showed that many families in the villages, who are genuinely poor, were surprised to see that they were not identified as BPL, but that richer families have been identified by the government as BPL.

These are a few of examples from the report. Mr. Damu Disari, the head of the village council of Dandabadi village Baipariguda Block in Koraput District has been classified as a Below the Poverty Line (BPL) since 2002. The data on his household says that his only source of income is his migrant labor which nets a monthly income of less than 250 rupees. In fact, Mr. Damu's family holds 30 acres of land, cultivates the land and has other business from which they earn 8,000 rupees per month.

A second example is the BPL survey data on Mr. G. Kitu’s family living in Panasput village, Baipariguda Block. He states that he is the only breadwinner and is working as a migrant laborer with an average monthly income between 500 to 1499 rupees. His household was identified as BPL. His family in fact has 10 acres of land. Mr. Kitu works as a contractor, engaging in transportation and other businesses. His total monthly income is about 10,000 rupees. He owns other assets like a tractor as well.

There are other families whose living conditions were overestimated. Mr. Ghasidhangda Majhi of Panganpani village and Mr. Ratan Khora of Jodaamba village do not hold land and work as daily wage laborers earning around 300 rupees monthly on average. However both of them are recorded as living under better conditions than the first two families above. As a result, the first two families are classified as BPL while the other two are not.

I am of the opinion that the considerable difference between the data proves that it was intentionally manipulated. In addition, as shown in previous Hunger Alerts released by the AHRC, the rural families who had to comfort malnourished children and have suffered from starvation were either not identified as BPL or deprived of their benefits as BPL. Both cases are due to corrupt public officials and influential villagers, such as upper caste persons discriminating against a lower caste or tribal community.

The rural families identified as BPL are eligible for government support such as subsidized food under the Public Food Distribution System (PDS), electricity, housing construction scheme which are all essential public programmes ensuring food security.

I am informed that human rights groups in the civil society, working on the right to food in particular, expressed their concern about government methods of collecting data on families that have migrated. They want to know how accurate data is obtained on all households. How do they identify the poor, who need government support to ensure food security, without such data being influenced by corruption.

I am further informed that the Orissa government will conduct a BPL survey from November of 2009. This comes at a time when many families in the villages have already temporarily migrated to other districts or states seeking jobs to feed their families.

I have learned that the guidelines of the Orissa government saying that it must ensure the Scheduled Tribes including the Primitive Tribal Groups, Scheduled Castes, Women-headed households, daily wage earners, families having disabled children and persons with HIV/AIDS, receive priority during the validation process. However, I am suspicious that the survey will not be able to carry out its guidelines in a fair manner.

I am of the opinion that the government should create a space for public discussion with civil groups asking for the cooperation of the civil society. Furthermore, the government should construct a mechanism to punish corrupt officials. Corruption, practiced in government programs guaranteeing food security, is one of the main reasons why childhood malnutrition in India was only reduced by one percent from 47 to 46% in the last ten years despite strong economic growth.

I look forward to your positive response.

Yours sincerely,

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PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Mr. Naveen Patnaik
Chief Minister
Naveen Nivas, Aerodrome Road
P.O.Bhubaneswar, Dist. Khurda
751001 Orissa
INDIA
E-mail: cmo@ori.nic.in

2. Tarun Kanti Mishra
Chief Secretary & Chief Development Commissioner
Bhubaneswar, Orissa
INDIA
Fax: 91 674 2536660
E-mail: csori@ori.nic.in

3. Collector (District Magistrate)
Koraput District
Orissa
INDIA
Fax: 91 6852 250466
E-mail: dmkoraput@ori.nic.in

Thank you.

Huger Alert Programme(foodjustice@ahrc.asia)
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrc.asia)

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