Posts tagged ‘Politics and Poverty’

UPA engaged in Proselytization

There was a very disturbing news item in the media this week which cited the expert committee constituted to identify the Below the Poverty Line (BPL) population as calling upon the government to take a call on Muslims. Whether being a Muslim is a valid parameter for identifying the BPL families. One thought that an expert committee would use its expertise and assert the valid criteria and not leave it to the political class for validification. Then why expert committees when it cannot even classify criteria for the purpose. The ball is in the court of the UPA to politicize the BPL population. So it is disappointing that the expert panel failed in its basic duty.
To premise the contouring of the BPL population on Sachar report and affirmative action is already a wrong start. Sachar report is not scientific. It wanted to do what it aimed to do-it wanted to target the Muslim population as the poorest of the poor and Sachar did exactly that. A scientific survey starts with no bias and culls out reliable data with the universe spread well leveled. One does not go to pockets of lumpen poverty groups and makes that a data base to project the profile of the Muslim population. It is a skewed projection because it is a skewed sampling. There is no quarrel to net in poverty groups by any available means except religion-and to project it as an authentic profile of the Muslim population in India is misleading and unrealistic.
Global phenomenon of poverty is conspicuous in India because of various factors that impinge on the Third World countries. The poverty here is lumpen because of structural inequality growth resulting from a historic process. Poverty cannot be studied in isolation for it has structural and causal factors. This is precisely the reason why any numbers of Poverty alleviation programs have been unable to pull up the BPL groups and retain them above the PL. The NERGS is one such which is a cosmetic application to cover the poverty ugliness. An important causal factor of BPL families slipping back into poverty is fertility. So if a BPL family is given an economic input even in hard cash once the family size increases the family slips back to Below the Poverty line. It is this which has to be attended to and Family planning measures is more crucial to alleviate poverty to hold the family above the Poverty Line. This has not been undertaken and hence no amount of inputs will easily pull up those who refuse for religious reasons or for any other to opt for a small family norm. Development cannot be in isolation of this factor. Poverty leads to a culture of poverty-disease, malnutrition, illiteracy, ignorance, et al.
Poverty experts have measured poverty with various yardsticks-consumption norm, poverty line, percapita income, relative deprivation, calories, and entitlements.
Accessibility and availability to basic survival inputs like water and sanitation, health facilities, purchasing power, monthly income et al. Poverty groups have been aimed at area-wise, sector- wise, occupation –wise, group-wise and house-hold wise. The poor were identified not only on these lines but also on the basis of caste. The IRDP was only one of three major poverty alleviation programs-the other two being National Rural Employment Program (NREP) and Rural Landless Employment Guarantee Program (RLEGP) which specified that at least 30 percent of the beneficiaries to be SCs.
India thus has an unprecedented and long experience with poverty, its alleviation and strategies to pull up the BPL population. But no expert committee/panel ever envisaged religion to be one of the identifying factors. Hence the UPA government will be ill advised to bring in religion as a yardstick to identify poverty groups.
No secular government worth its name can use religion as a yardstick to net in poverty groups. It is basically a negation of secularism. Use one or more criterion or a range of factors to net in the poor. And if the Muslims are the poorest of the poor they should automatically come in the net, why this over anxiety to somehow bring them in? For example the expert panel can structure its own identification factors like-percapita income, illiteracy, woman headed family, having a chronically ill family member, –non availability of water source within a 10 furlong from the house, .type of house, .availability of electricity, child labor in the family, SC family. These can be whetted and sharpened and streamlined with distribution of weightages. But surely religion cannot be a factor nor can any scoring be given to it. Religion cannot be equated to caste.
If religion is taken as an index it is a Constitution violation and will have far reaching ill consequences. It gives a body blow to the very concept of ‘secularism’. And it is a governmental jihad directed against the country. It is a blatant proselytization-luring people into a religion to qualify them as beneficiaries to all that accrue to those under the BPL. It is a deception and hence a social sin to force people to be under the BPL when they are not. It is anti-national to project a wrong picture. And lastly it holds the government accountable if BPL figures are augmented to behold a farce of a development and its strategies from the karibi hatao and the 20 point program now to the much bandied Congress’ National rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, the BPL population is ever increasing. It demolishes all that governance stood for. The very existence of a government whose prime task was poverty alleviation.62 years of Freedom and our poverty numbers are increasing because of the politics of vote banks. Is it not a shame that a government which calls for tokenism in austerity is unable to substantially alleviate poverty? Why then a government at all is the question-is it to create a false image, to fleece the people and live on them, to tax Ram to pay Ahmed, to divide and rule, to make a permanency of vote bank of the Muslims to use them as pawns for power grabbing, to building ghettos and keeping them within?
Small wonder that the expert committee report was full of contradictions. With nine out of the 17 members in the panel submitting separate note (dissent) So it has gone to the Ministry of Rural Development to come out with the identification methodology. The UPA government now can appoint another penal –after all it is a panel raj which we have. It would be prudent for the UPA government to keep religion out as an index of measuring poverty and not violate the basic Fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution
Dr Mrs Hilda Raja

September 24, 2009 at 12:40 pm Leave a comment


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