What does ‘Minority’ mean? Is the Congress fighting shy of stating Muslims and so substitutes the word Muslim with minority? Then it should state so. Muslims form the majority of the minorities groups. If the Congress really means minorities then it means the inclusion to this automatic dynamics of falling below the PL applies to the Jains, the Buddhists, the Christians and the Parsis.
.The attack on poverty continued but was more shadow boxing and today we are told that poverty numbers are increasing and not progressive on the decline. Any fool will realise that the strategies which aimed and simulated as lifting the BPL people did not actually lift them but saw them slipping deeper into poverty and the head count increasing. A sensible government will realise that there is something basically wrong with the strategies and the approach and the operation. But government after government continued with the same structure which could not and did not deliver.
Poverty knows no religion and is not communal. The crux of the problem is the Congress latest enlightenment to attack poverty. So under CP Joshi it has communalised poverty and has projected itself as State-sponsored proselytiser. A new variable has been identified to net in poverty group-namely Muslims. It is demeaning to even think that by following a particular religion one falls automatically under BPL. THE Congress Government is toying with the idea of automatic inclusion of minorities in Below the Poverty Line (BPL) list accordingly to Rural Development Ministry under the Congress leader CP Joshi. A close scrutiny is called for. What comes automatically from the UPA 2 cannot be automatically accepted by the people. It leaves no doubt that this is a vote catching strategy not a development one. Having stated that lets us do some probing.
What does Minority mean? Is the Congress fighting shy of stating Muslims and so substitutes the word Muslim with Minority? Then it should state so. Muslims form the majority of the minorities groups. If the Congress really means minorities then it means the inclusion to this automatic dynamics of falling below the PL applies to the Jains, the Buddhists, the Christians the Parsis. I am not sure whether the Jains and the Parsis will like to be automatically pushed below the PL. So the Congress must first of all be clear on its target group and not hide behind the Muslims-the majority of the minorities.
How does one measure the Poverty Line (PL) and what exactly is the PL? A clear understanding of poverty, estimates of poverty and its impact must be the first premise for policy makers and politicians before they open their mouths on strategies targeting poverty. Unless this is grappled with, strategies are only cosmetic cover ups for the indepth poverty. There is a structural basis which throws up poverty. One cannot apply a strategy to catch the thrown up effect and think that is the solution without rooting out the lopsided structure that is oppressive and exploitative.
The structure needs to be pulled down or at least dismantled and a humanistic and equity structure set-up if poverty has to be tackled. Without directing and focusing attention to this, camouflage it with poverty alleviation programmes which means using the tax payers’ money without any accountability and qualms for wrong strategies and for communalising poverty cannot be tolerated. To think that the same structure can alleviate poverty is foolish to say the least. One cannot sow potatoes and want to reap tomatoes! It is in this context that one must look at the politicians and their thinking. Strengthening the existing structure with a little bit of luck galvanising the structure with youth power is no solution to poverty. It will only make it more unjust. Leelavatis are throw ups of this unjust structure which the Congress set-up and is reinforcing with its dynastic regime. To be the most powerful woman and the most popular leader in India is no great achievement but is a concomitant of an unjust structure- which keeps millions in starvation and semi starvation and projects a dynastic regime and fills the corridors of power with an elite coterie. Are we not inching steadily towards a Banana Republic? Youth power to only reinforce such a structure is an anti-people move.
The dynamics of such a structure will only push more and more people BPL and we will have any number of crumbs throwing strategies to keep the BPL population on a survival state. Unable to challenge, incapable of demanding, still worse off seeing through the deception of the politicians, the hungry millions watch the development momentum of our politicians who complain of no work but draw salaries and are given all the comforts. But the Congress has chalked out a 100 day work programme for a pittance. No work-no pay is the Supreme Court ruling. This is meant for ordinary people who stand and serve. Poverty impact is not a single point lifting up process, its structural impact encompasses a whole range of human/inhuman living and activity. It even touches on culture. This is exactly what is meant by impact of poverty. With half filled stomachs they go about trying to survive, if pushed too hard then they commit suicide giving an opportunity for the High Command to rush to wipe the tears and offer solace. Does the agriculture minister for example know what it is to lack purchasing power for a kilo of rice? How many crores does he own? The path to power is soaked with the tears and the misery of the powerlessness of the poverty groups. That is how the unjust structure of the polity is set-up and made to work. The Hand can wave to them and in their trance they will wave back, waiting for the green pastures promises held out to the hungry millions election after election.
Another aspect of poverty structure it is dehumanising and emits a nauseating and stomach churning stink. No wonder money and the muscle powers become the determinants to the power seats. The contradictions in this poverty upholding structure are evident in the corruption that has eaten into the entrails of Indian polity. With money anything can be achieved. There is a whole gamut of impact of poverty. The poor must be ghettoed in fences of poverty. It suits the political class especially the Congress who was at the helm of affairs the longest period in Independent India.
Look at the number of strategies it had devised for poverty alleviation. It started with Community Development Programme. As the nation marched through its decades of freedom, poverty alleviation strategies were tagged under different categories: Area-wise, sector-wise, occupation-wise, group-wise, and household-wise. To name a few, Intensive Agriculture Area Programme, Drought Prone Area Programme, Desert Area Programme, Tribal Area Programme, etc. From 1980 the attack on poverty shifted to specific groups-like the SCs and STs. Three major programmes were launched: namely the Integrated Rural Development Programme, National Rural Employment Programme, the Rural Landless Labour Employment programme. These were launched because the area-wise and sector-wise did not have any impact and poverty numbers kept increasing. A special noting here is that the much totted Congress’s Rural Employment Guarantee Programme is not the brain child of Sonia Gandhi or Rahul Gandhi. To make the programmes effective, all the Poverty Alleviation Programmes should amalgamate and Integrated Rural Development Programme should be intensified and it should be specified that at least 30 per cent of the beneficaries should be SCs.
The attack on poverty continued but was more shadow boxing and today we are told that poverty numbers are increasing and not progressive on the decline, Any fool will realise that the strategies which aimed and simulated as lifting the BPL people did not actually lift them but saw them slipping deeper into poverty and the head count increasing. Any sensible government will realise that there is something basically wrong with the strategies and the approach and the operation. But government after government continued with the same structure which could not and did not deliver.
The crux was poverty, always an economic variable. Factors which assessed this economic variable were deprivation of basics, and lack of food and clean water, inability to access food and basics, unavailability of basic services, etc. It was a direct result of lack of money. Poverty globally and nationally cannot be measured in any other yardstick but economic. Be it wages, calories, assets, purchasing power, give it any name, it is economic. You can call it assetlessness, powerlessness, or simply deprivation, starvation, etc.
Now this is not based on a religion. Poverty knows no religion and is not communal. The crux of the problem is the Congress latest enlightenment to attack poverty. So under C.P Joshi it has communalised poverty and has projected itself as State sponsored proselytiser. A new variable has been identified to net in poverty group-namely Muslims. It is demeaning to even think that by following a particular religion one falls automatically under BPL. There are a number of implications. The root cause then to alleviate poverty is to get out of that religion. Is it as simple as that? Why blame a religion for poverty? Is the religion responsible for making its adherents poor? What happens to the Wakf Board assets across the country? What happens to the crorepati Muslims? Why had Islam not made them poor? The next thing to ask is should we believe that the Khans of Bollyhood, AR Rahman of Tamil Nadu, the former cricketer Pataudi and his family, Wipro Azim Premji, Ansari the Vice President of India (who was a bureaucrat), the film actors, those in the fashion world, MF Hussain will all automatically fall below the PL? What happens to all the flow of petro dollars from the Islamic world? The Congress forgets that business is also in the hands of the Muslims, why waste 16 to 20 years in an educational institution deemed or doomed and then look for a job? The Muslims are smarter, at a young age they enter business, even if it is to set up a small bunk, get an auto, etc and in no time they earn and are financially independent. The Congress cannot look at the migrants from Bangla Desh and Pakistan and make them the sample of poverty among the Muslims. As stated earlier poverty knows no religion. In fact the Muslims are hard workers and know to stand on their own. A National Survey Sample (NSS) of the government of India came out with the data that Christians are the poorest. This is understandable because the majority of the Christians are SCs and MBCs. This takes us to caste religion cannot become an identifying factor for poverty or a yardstick but caste can. This has historical empirical data. The SCs and the MBCs were deprived and denied of access even to drinking water. They were barred from certain professions, (not any more) education institutions they could not think of entering. This has changed too. But there is a cumulative culture of poverty when it comes to SCs. The Constitution and the Directive Principles point to this and makes the government accountable for their upliftment. Here again a caution-positive discrimination cannot be a permanent cure. It speaks volumes of the inability of the government to continue pushing larger and larger sections of the population as backward. So the bottom line would testify that after 62 years of Planned Development there is an increase in backwardness and poverty. Do we need a government at all for this downward trend?
Will not the ‘automatically’ falling BPL be an allurement for conversion to Islam? Is the Congress blatantly violating the Constitution? Is the Congress determined to communalise every aspect of this country and its governance? Yet it has the deception and the audacity to call itself ‘Secular’. A Ministry for Minority (read Muslim) affairs, a special budget for their institutions like madrasas, Haj subsidy all financed by the tax payers money, add to this the extension of the Aligarh Muslim University, should we call this secularism? Where does all this end? Communalism based on region (Telangana for example) caste, religion, majority, minority all are the divisive forces sowed and nurtured by the Congress, the great Secular Party the mother head of Communalism.
(The writer is a Development Consultant, Vadodara.)