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2002 BPL Survey Data for Bundelkhand districts

Data from the 2002 BPL Survey related to Bundelkhand has certain limitations, apart from those discussed in Estimation of Poverty in Bundelkhand. Till December 2008, data from many districts including Jhansi, Lalitpur and Jalaun was not compiled or made publicly accessible through the website of the Union ministry of rural development. Data for Hamirpur was incomplete. Data for Mahoba and Sagar districts was suspect. The Mahoba data showed that only seven rural households in the entire district had bonded labourers; the data for Sagar showed that nearly 40% of the households had less than one square meal a day for the major part of the year!

A meaningful examination of BPL survey data can hence be limited only to the districts listed in the table below. The data has a reasonably good degree of consistency across indicators, and on no indicator is the data patently absurd. There is  an obvious mix-up in website data on SC and ST households in MP Bundelkhand districts, which has been corrected in the table.

This does not however mean that the data is entirely 'true'. There were several complaints regarding the way data was collected and entered: the surveyors were poorly trained; many households were not interviewed; scoring was done keeping in mind predetermined BPL limits and political pressures (see discussion under 'BPL Survey' in Estimation of Poverty in Bundelkhand). One can also expect that many households would have under-reported average monthly income; one can also expect this in case of the questions related to children at work, and bonded labourers. On the other hand, there could have been some over-reporting of hunger in responses to questions related to food security, as most families would have known that BPL survey results determine eligibility for subsidised foodgrains.

Assuming that misreporting due to all these reasons did not lead to overwhelmingly 'bogus' data, and making allowances for some degree of under or over-reporting,  the data in the table can be taken to represent rural poverty in Bundelkhand (see qualifying Note at end of this page). The table also gives data from Jalandhar district (Punjab), in a relatively prosperous agriculture zone of the country, for the sake of comparison. Jalandhar is comparable to Chitrakoot, in terms of number of rural households. Some broad conclusions emerging from the data are discussed below the table.

2002 BPL survey data on rural households (RHHs) of select districts, on select indicators

% RHHs with Banda Chitrakoot Datia Chhatarpur Tikamgarh Panna Damoh Jalandhar
Average income <Rs 1500 per month 72 71 74 81 84 88 91 45
Nil operational holdings 30 22 12 12 9 26 37 63
No house 2 2 1 1 1 2 3 3
No pucca house 88 88 58 86 76 94 93 41
Less than one square meal a day for major part of year 2 2 1 Neg 1 3 2 Neg
Not enough food throughout the year 64 61 65 79 80 87 89 42
No literate adult

28 29 26 44 41 45 40 11
Bonded labourers 2 3 1 1 1 5 3 2
Children not going to school and working 15 11 7 16 20 30 21 8
Children working 48 49 36 55 58 60 59 11
Causal labour as main source of livelihood 25 19 33 39 34 52 61 26
Subsistence farming as main source of livelihood 57 58 48 46 51 35 28 21
Debt 49 48 65 76 79 83 84 41
Casual labour migrants 14 12 19 22 32 37 40 10
Seasonal employment migrants 24 20 10 10 15 12 11 3
Migrants for any reason 71 77 54 52 68 62 64 43

Percentages derived from absolute figures and rounded  off to nearest integer. 'Migrants for any reason' data derived by subtracting data on 'non-migrant' households from total households. 'Children working' data includes 'children not going to school and working' and 'children going to school and working'.

The first and most important indicator from an income-poverty perspective is the average monthly income. We can use Rs 1500 per month, roughly equivalent of Rs 3500 in 2008, as a 'cut-off' figure - as the amount that would have been required in 2002 for most rural households to meet basic requirements of food, clothing, fuel and housing. (The surmise is supported by data from the 55th Round of the National Sample Survey, conducted in 1999-2000, on rural labour households, which reported that average annual consumption expenditure of such households was a little over Rs 23,000 - or a little less than Rs 2000 per month. Around 60% of the expenditure was estimated to be on food. If we assume that cultivator households would have met around half their food requirements from the produce of their land, the Rs 1500 figure is a fair cut-off for cultivator and labour households).

The 2002 BPL survey data shows that the overwhelming majority of rural households in Bundelkhand did not earn this much. Income-poverty was highest in districts with a sizable tribal population (Panna and Damoh).

The income-poverty data is corroborated by data on  'pucca' houses. A 'pucca' house is generally understood as a house with walls and roof built with bricks/stones and lime and mortar or cement. 'Pucca' houses are a sure sign of surplus income in a rural environment. As the data shows, a sizable proportion of rural households with surplus income for investment in 'pucca' houses was found only in Datia, and to a much lesser extent, in Tikamgarh. Both districts rank high in terms of agriculture productivity within the region.

The data also shows that in a poor agriculture zone, operational land holdings are not a very meaningful determinant of income-poverty. The proportion of households with 'nil' operational holdings was lower in Panna than in Banda, but a far lesser proportion of households was engaged in subsistence farming in Panna. Obviously, quality of land and access to irrigation facilities, as well as availability of other livelihood options, are key factors. In Jalandhar, over 60% of households had no operational holdings, yet the proportion of households reported to be earning over Rs 1500 a month was much higher than in any Bundelkhand district.

Another comparison with Jalandhar helps us understand this fact better. In all the Bundelkhand districts, over 70% of  households were dependant on casual labour or subsistence farming, whereas in Jalandhar less than 50% of the households were in this position. Yet, the proportion of migration for any reason was lower in Jalandhar than in any Bundelkhand district. This clearly indicates that there was considerable opportunity for other livelihoods in rural Jalandhar. The least such opportunity was available in Chitrakoot, where 77% of households had at least one migrant. 

The precariousness of household livelihood status across Bundelkhand is reflected in the fact that except in Datia, children of over 50% of households were 'working'. Even this figure, as mentioned earlier, could be a case of under-reporting. We have unfortunately no data on what work children do, for how many hours and how often.

Comparison with the data from Jalandhar brings out other dimensions of poverty in Bundelkhand, though there is much inter-district variation on several indicators, such as incidence of debt and subsistence farming.

Broadly, the proportion of households dependant on casual labour or subsistence farming was 30-40% higher in Bundelkhand districts than in Jalandhar. The proportion of households without food security was higher by 20-45%. The proportion of households with children working was 25-50% higher. In five of the seven Bundelkhand districts, the proportion of families in debt was 25-40% higher. The proportion of families without literate adults was higher by 11-33%.

Note:

It is difficult to verify the premise that 2002 BPL survey data can be taken to represent rural poverty in Bundelkhand. A survey conducted today would give data for today, not for 2002. We cannot expect all households to remember their status under various indicators in 2002, except in the cases where there has been no change at all.

We cannot also compare the BPL Survey data with Census 2001 data. The latter refers largely to persons (such as 'main workers'), whereas the former refers to households. There is also much difference in terminology. Census data on labourers refers to agricultural labourers; the BPL survey data refers to 'casual labourers', a broader term. The BPL Survey used the term 'pucca' houses, a term generally understood as houses built with bricks and cement. Census 2001 used the term 'permanent houses', defined as houses built out of permanent materials including sheets of galvanised metal and asbestos.

We can however do a reverse verification: assume that the BPL Survey data given in the table is entirely false. What would the picture be then? It might tell us, for example, that percentage of low-income households in, say, Panna is lower than in Datia, or that status of SC or ST households is better than status of overall population (see SC/ST Poverty). The data does not give us such an absurd picture.

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