Brinda Karat, Rajya Sabha member and Communist Party of India (Marxist) Polit Bureau member, has protested against non-inclusion of disabled persons in the automatic inclusion category for the 2011 below the poverty line (BPL) census being conducted by the Rural Development Ministry.
In a letter to Rural Development Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, she has drawn attention to the May 2, 2003 Supreme Court order, in which the disabled have been listed in the automatic inclusion category for Antodaya benefits which means the “poorest of the poor.” Instead of implementing the court order, the BPL census questionnaire has a one-point reference to the disabled and is framed in such a way as to ensure that families with a disabled member do not get a score.
“The question is whether it is a household with any disabled member and no able-bodied adult member? It is wrong to link the entitlements of a disabled child or adult with [the question] whether there is an able-bodied member in the household or not.” In most cases there would certainly be an able-bodied member, the most obvious being the mother, she has pointed out.
In most of rural India disabled persons are entirely dependent on their families which will have to incur an additional expenditure for their well-being. “It is cruel and unjust, therefore, to deny them the BPL cards. In fact, disabled persons and the family they live with should be automatically included in the BPL category on the understanding that those middle class families who do not require it will exclude themselves.” Ms. Karat has said.
In fact, most of the questions are an affront to the large majority who are comprised of the working poor, she says. Although the census design has been simplified compared to 2002, it still retains the ranking system for the majority of the rural population through seven questions on a scale of 0-7, where 7 represents the most poor. The Planning Commission has given each State a “quota” or “cap” on the numbers of those who are to be officially recognised as being eligible for the BPL cards. The ranking system is basically to enable the State governments to fix a cut-off in counting the poor to fit into these highly dubious “caps.” It depends not on whether a particular family is poor or not but on whether there are families which are worse off, in which case the “less poor” family will not be counted as poor.
An easily verifiable small automatic exclusion category with the rest of the population recognised as being eligible for entitlements would be far more just, says Ms. Karat.