Being Muslim or SC/ST enough to get 'poor' tag

Being Muslim or SC/ST enough to get 'poor' tag

These are the nagging questions facing the ministry of rural development following a report of an expert committee that said being a Muslim or a Scheduled Caste/Tribe was sufficient to get the ‘poor’ tag.

The committee was set up by the ministry to identify the parameters to determine the Below Poverty Line (BPL) status of a family. The panel, headed by former bureaucrat N C Saxena, said being Muslim was enough criterion for getting the BPL tag.

The committee cited the principle of an affirmative action and the Sachar Committee report to provide more scores (weightage) to Muslims in ranking families as BPL.
The committee also provided the criterion of being Dalit, tribal, the most backward caste and other backward castes to get the BPL family status.

This is the first time religion and caste are being considered as parameters for identifying the poor. However, rural development minister C P Joshi was cautious in his response on the report. “The government is yet to take decision in this regard,” he said.

“As the panel is only a recommendatory body, ultimately the government will take a decision,” Joshi told Deccan Herald.

He even disagreed with some of the suggestions of the committee and said, “Though I am yet to go through the entire report, let us give some more time to study it.”
But the government will have to take a decision on the issue at the earliest, as it has to conduct the BPL survey well before the 2011 Census starts. The government has to also finalise the BPL list for it to roll out the National Food Security Act, which provides 25 kg of rice/wheat to each BPL family at Rs 3 per kg.

“Regardless of what the Saxena Committee report suggests, we have to wait for the decision of the Planning Commission, as they have the final say on the BPL family survey criteria,” sources in the rural development ministry said.

Even the committee’s footnote in its reports says “some members suggested that Muslims should be ranked above the OBCs. We leave this issue to government...”.