The following article was written for Niti Central. Pasting it here for reference:
The erstwhile Congress Government in the undivided Andhra Pradesh took massive pride in increasing the number of poor people in the State. One hoarding announced that a whopping 88 per cent of the people in the State are poor. Various announcements by Ministers at that point indicated that they are striving their best to even raise this number to beyond 90 per cent!
After the bifurcation and the formation of new Governments, the Chief Minister of Telangana, K Chandrashekhar Rao announced that there are many people who took massive advantage of this lax approach of the previous Government (and got benefits through various Schemes) and he would like to weed out all the pilferage. His solution? A comprehensive one-day household survey in the entire State.
KCR announced that this survey is only to identify those who will be eligible for the various schemes of the Telangana Government. He and his entire Council of Ministers held a daylong meeting with the entire Revenue Department of the State to come up with the modalities for the survey – what needs to be included, what needs to be asked, what are the logistics needed for completing this in one day and so on.
Meanwhile, the KCR Government announced a scheme – FAST – according to which only students whose ancestors were living in the region before 1956 are eligible for a fee reimbursement. All hell broke loose — Opposition parties and others have started to see a sinister design behind the motive of the survey. Is this survey intended to find out all those who came from Seemandhra regions, and make them ineligible for any welfare scheme of the Telangana Government? This fear had a strong foundation in the fact that the KCR Government has already started to redefine the rules of nativity for students to be eligible for one scheme. Therefore, the question was — is this survey aimed at identifying the poor, or identifying those from Seemandhra?
This fear was further compounded when it was revealed that we have to submit copies of birth certificate to the enumerators (along with many other copies of many other certificates and cards). The initial survey form put up by a website had a question: “Which State you are from?” Fears were also ripe (especially in the Hyderabad region) that this survey was meant primarily to identify those from Seemandhra and make them ineligible for schemes of the Telangana Government. Leaked tapes (perhaps edited too) of KCR’s meetings revealed that his Government was purposely creating an environment that will not be conducive for Seemandhra region employees working in the Telangana Government. This again revealed the intense hatred existing in TRS with regards to the employees of Seemandhra region.
Next, there were concerns regarding privacy also. The form was seeking many details – people expressed fears regarding how safe this data was going to be. A PIL was filed in the High Court seeking proper guidance on this survey. Only after that did the Government declare that this entire survey was voluntary! We were also told that the survey does not intend to question the nativity of any person living in the State.
Ministers and officials started appearing on TV and speaking to the Press on the “benefit” of taking the survey. Most of their responses were quite vague – this will benefit you; this will help in building a “Bangaru Telangana (Golden Telangana); this is voluntary, but it will be good if you take it; you
might become ineligible later if you don’t take the survey now – and so on and so forth! The big message though — if you don’t take the survey, you may become ineligible for any Government scheme. But, it is voluntary!
Then we were told that there is no need to submit proofs. That there was no need to even show proof to the enumerator. A holiday was declared. All those who intended to get benefited from the scheme were asked to be home that day. If you lived elsewhere, you needed to come back home. If you work in a field that requires you to be at work, you need to get an authorisation letter from your place of work. No bus will be on the road that day — August 19. There was a massive influx of migrants back to their homes. The entire State was in a state of shut-down.
Finally, on Tuesday, the survey happened. The survey had a lot of Yes/No questions. The form can be found here. Do you have property – Yes or No. If I answer Yes, I need not show proof of it. If I answer No – my word is taken at face value. The survey required that we give details of bike, car, and even number of air conditioners at home. I think the logic was that if the family has enough money to own a bike/car/AC, they will not be needing a BPL card. Good idea – but if I do own and say “No” – there is no way for the Government to verify this claim!
For rural areas, the form had details on the livestock one possesses, details of agricultural lands etc. It also had details that needed to be filled regarding the pensioners. Again, everything was voluntary! One can continue with their false claims and still remain a false beneficiary. No one, absolutely no one, in the Government told us what would happen if one chooses to not reveal personal data. But people would still like to claim benefits at a later stage. The fear of misuse of data is genuine and something that was not effectively countered.
The form did not have any question regarding nativity. We were not even asked to show a copy of the birth certificate! It merely sought Yes/No answers for a lot of questions – information that is generally available with the Government.
Chief Minister KCR addressed a Press conference at 6:30 pm on Tuesday (with the survey still not complete), and made a few observations that seem very weird.
1. He claimed that from the survey results so far, it looks like the population of Telangana will be around 4.5 crore as against the estimate of 3.5 crore! First, the survey was not complete – it was a manual exercise with no one entering hourly data into a computer to claim these numbers. Second, large number of people came back from other States just to be present at their home for this survey. They will go back. How can they be classified under the population of Telangana?
2. KCR also claimed that at the time of his speaking to the Press, some 15.8 lakh homes had been enumerated in Hyderabad. With nearly 30 per cent homes still untouched. He tells us that their data showed 15 lakh homes, but it now looks like there are 20 lakh homes (Note: This is not based on empirical data, just his estimate). He also tells us that the actual population of Hyderabad will be around 1.2 crore as against 75-80 lakh (currently recorded). He will now plan for drinking water estimates to the city based on 1.2 crores and not 75 lakhs. Again – where does he get this data from? And how about the floating population?
3. Filmstar Pawan Kalyan refused to take part in the survey. It is voluntary after all. KCR goes all out against him – “Those who want to stay here as tourists and guests, have not taken part in the survey.” He went ahead and called it a social crime to have not taken part in the survey. Why declare and advertise the survey as voluntary and then use such language? Is this the language one expects from the Chief Minister of a State? No wonder that there continues to be a fear amongst certain sections of people.
4. It is unclear as to how these claims (whopping numbers even before the survey is totally complete and before data of the completed survey poured in) will serve any purpose.
Pilferage and bogus beneficiaries rule to roost because they declare false information. Monday’s survey also allowed full opportunity to continue declaring false information. This was evident from how KCR lay claim to population numbers. KCR and TRS are quite gung-ho about this survey. From a management perspective, this survey has apparently been a great success. Only time will tell if this is a success from the governance perspective too.