Moots State-level coordination board with Chief Minister in the chair

Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh has said that there is no question of the Centre permitting replacement of the Kudumbasree Poverty Eradication Mission by any other umbrella mechanism.

Mr. Ramesh told The Hindu here on Monday that the Kudumbasree Mission had proved itself a model for poverty eradication worth replication across the country and that it would do no good to disturb it in any way. The State government, he said, had placed before the Centre three options for reworking the poverty eradication initiative in the State. The first of these was for creation of a State Rural Livelihood Mission (SRLM) headed by the Chief Minister, the second a change in the Kudumbasree organisational structure to make the Chief Minister its chairman, and the third the formation of a State-level coordination board with the Chief Minister in the chair.

“I have communicated to the Chief Minister my preference for the third option and he is one with me on this,” the Minister said and added that a decision on the issue would be taken in the coming few days.

Kerala reality

Mr. Ramesh, who had had discussions with Chief Minister Oommen Chandy late Saturday evening, said he had also met Union Defence Minister A.K. Antony before setting out for Kerala and was told that nothing should be done to disturb Kudumbasree. “I am convinced that the Chief Minister also does not wish to upset the present functioning of Kudumbasree,” he said. Though there could be the argument that since majority of the States had SRLMs, Kerala could also have the same, one should remember that Kerala already had Kudumbasree. While there might have been some infiltration by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in the Kudumbasree, it should also be noted that except for (former CPI-M Minister) Paloli Mohammed Kutty and to a certain extent T.M. Thomas Isaac, none in the CPI(M) had taken Kudumbasree seriously.

“For the CPI(M) to now come out as the champion of Kudumbasree is sheer hypocrisy. They were in fact anti-Kudumbasree and even saw it as an instrument of de-politicisation. This is nothing but political opportunism,” he said.

The Union Minister also came down heavily on caste and community-based self-help groups (SHGs) and pointed out that such initiatives should be instruments of inclusion and not exclusion. Some of these initiatives by Dalit movements could be justified as they fulfilled a very important social need, several others tended to divide the people. Caste organisations have historically played a major role as instruments of social change, but they cannot use the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) to divide people. Nor was there any meaning in the argument that there should be SHGs of men. “This is a mission for poverty eradication through women’s empowerment. We will not get out of that mode,” he said.