Monday, September 21, 2009

Below Poverty Line Card

AFTER Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's "Muslims must have first claim on resources" remarks about three years ago, the second term of the UPA government has to now take a call on whether to accept if being a Muslim is a valid parameter for identifying Below Poverty Line (BPL) families for Central government schemes.

An expert panel constituted by the Rural Development Ministryhascitedtheprinciple of affirmative action and the Sachar Report to provide scores (weightage) for being Muslim for ranking the families as BPL. In fact, the panel, headed by former bureaucrat N C Saxena, has also provided the criteria of being Dalit, tribal, Most Backward Caste (MBC) and Other Backward Caste (OBC) for ranking of familiesasBPL.

The committee has equated Muslims with OBCs, for which a score of one has been fixed, while ranking the families and suggested the government to take a political call on whether to increase the weightage for beingaMuslimforinclusionin the BPL list and equate them withMBCsthathaveascoreof two for ranking.

"Some members suggested that Muslims should be ranked above the OBCs. We leave this issue to government to take a view," the committee has written in the footnotes of its report submitted to the Rural Development Ministry.

A final decision is yet to be taken by the ministry, which has sought public opinion on thereportbeforeincorporating thecriteriaofbeingMuslimfor identifyingBPLfamilies. A decision on this issue is necessary, as the government will have to conduct its BPL survey well before the 2011 census work begins. More so when the government plans to enact a National Food Security Act that seeks to provide food security for all, particularly the BPL families.

The panel estimates that after factoring in the `automatic inclusion' and `automatic exclusion' categories, the rural household survey would be required to cover only the remaining 80 per cent of the household. It is under this category that religion and caste categories have been included as parameters for ranking BPL families in the rural areas.

However, the committee report is full of contradictions with nine of the 17 members in the panel submitting separate note (dissent) to the final report raising doubts over the acceptability of the report. Norms for identifying BPL families The expert panel has come out with two broad categories of households: AUTOMATICALLY INCLUDED IN BPL Primitive tribal groups Maha Dalit groups identified by the state Single women headed households Households with disabled persons as main breadwinners Households headed by minors Destitute households Homeless households Any family whose member is a bonded labourer AUTOMATICALLY EXCLUDED FROM BPL Families with land holding double the district average Family with motor vehicle Income tax payers Family with mechanised farm equipment Family comprising a person with Rs 10,000 or more monthly income

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