Calcutta, Sept. 21: The commissioners appointed by the Supreme Court to look into the poverty alleviation schemes in the country have criticised Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s government, particularly on the selection of the people below poverty line.
In their report to the apex court in mid-August, commissioners .C. Saxena and S.R. Sankaran observed that the list of people below poverty line was not drawn up transparently and “little was done to publicise the issue and foster public participation”.
“The whole process of updating the list was done in a remarkably opaque manner. Gram sansads (as gram sabhas are called in West Bengal) were not involved at all,” says the report.
The commissioners have advised the Supreme Court to direct the government to present the list of people below poverty line in each gram sabha for scrutiny and revision as provided for in Government of India guidelines.
Sankaran is arriving in Burdwan tomorrow to see whether the apex court’s orders on the poverty alleviation schemes are being implemented properly. Panchayat secretary M.. Roy will accompany him to the district. Sankaran will meet chief secretary S.. Roy and secretaries of other departments connected with the poverty alleviation schemes on Tuesday.
Panchayat and rural development minister Surjya Kanta Mishra refuted the charges levelled by the commissioners. “We have listened to all claims and objections and the below poverty line list was drawn up in a very transparent manner,” he said.
According to the report, the apex court had directed in May this year that no name should be struck off the list of people below poverty line till further orders. The Bengal government completed this exercise well before May and a large number of families — about a fifth of the previous below poverty line population — was removed from the list.
“This direction (in May) had no effect in Bengal where the government argues it has redone its BPL (below poverty line) list well before the direction of the court. The process of redoing the list has deprived many poor people of a BPL card,” says the report. A “BPL card” is essential for access to the public distribution system and several other poverty alleviation schemes.