NATIONAL

Even gift moped will cost manual scavengers BPL status

Jairam Ramesh

Jairam Ramesh  

Criteria already finalised by Cabinet, says Jairam Ramesh

Can a manual scavenger, despite being given preference, be excluded from the BPL list if he or she possesses any one of the 13 listed assets?

‘Yes,' said Union Minister Jairam Ramesh quoting the rules approved by the Cabinet at a meeting with representatives of various institutions here on Monday. National Advisory Council member N.C. Saxena ruled similarly.

The issue was raised by D.K. Verma of the Babasaheb Ambedkar National Institute of Social Studies, who pointed out that at least 60 per cent of those engaged in manual scavenging in Madhya Pradesh owned two-wheelers provided by the government under schemes for their uplift.

‘Wrong procedure'

Dr. Verma took exception to application of the exclusion criteria first before considering the five inclusion criteria. On this basis, manual scavengers would be left out of the BPL list, he said. The inclusion criteria should be applied first to protect their interests.

Dr. Verma was supported by several other institutions when officials sought to dismiss the Madhya Pradesh case as isolated for, this fact was not established in the pilot projects carried out for finalising the basis for the BPL census.

The institutions maintained that manual scavengers would complete their work early in the morning in rural areas and use two-wheelers or motorised boats provided under various government schemes to earn an additional income.

But these measures had not helped the manual scavengers come out of poverty and, hence, they needed to be protected. Excluding them on the ground that they possessed two-wheelers, mostly moped which cost Rs. 10,000-Rs.12,000, would mean doing injustice to them, the institutions argued.

There was opposition also to excluding those who owned a landline phone, saying the equipment was provided for a rent of just Rs. 100 a month.

Responding, Mr. Ramesh said he would like to commit himself to considering their demands but that was not possible anymore as the census exercise was already under way and as both the exclusion and inclusion criteria were approved by the Cabinet.

‘Non-negotiable'

Stressing that these were non-negotiable, Mr. Ramesh said he was open to discussing giving more weightage to some of the seven deprivation indicators, all of which are on a par with one another. He emphasised giving greater weightage to households with a disabled member, to SC/ST households and woman-headed households with no adult male in the age group 16-59.

According to sources, the Ministry of Rural Development is likely to assign two points to SC and ST households.

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