Muslim poverty may bite Narendra Modi at NDC meet in Delhi

Thursday
The final version of the Twelfth Plan document has named Gujarat among four states with the maximum number of Muslims below poverty line, which could set the stage for another confrontation between Chief Minister Narendra Modi and the Centre at next week's National Development Council (NDC) meeting.

At the 2007 NDC meeting to discuss the Eleventh Plan, Modi had openly hit out at the prime minister's 15-point programme for minorties, demanding that it be dropped "in the interest of maintaining the social fabric of the nation".

He subsequently never implemented the Centre's scholarship scheme for minorities.

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Now the Twelfth Plan document, which will be the subject of discussion at the NDC coming Thursday, shows Gujarat in a poor light when it comes to lifting Muslims above BPL in both urban and rural areas. To address this, the Plan calls for direct targeting of minorities to be made a pre-condition for disbursal of funds — a concept Modi has vehemently opposed, terming targeting of population on lines of religion "anti-constitutional".

"According to the latest Planning Commission estimates, the poverty ratio for Muslims was 33.9 per cent in urban areas, especially on account of states such as Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Bihar and West Bengal. In rural areas, the poverty ratio for Muslims was very high in states such as Assam, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Gujarat," states the Plan document in its chapter on social Inclusion, which is part of the section on social sector.

Using the Tendulkar Committee's methodology, the Planning Commission estimates that 42.4 per cent of the Muslims in urban Gujarat are poor, which is very high compared to the overall poverty ratio of 17.9 per cent in urban areas. In rural areas, the corresponding figure stands at 31.4 per cent, which is again more than the overall average of 26.4 per cent for rural poverty in the state.

On urban poverty ratio among Muslims, Gujarat's figures are the third worse after Bihar (56.5 per cent) and Uttar Pradesh (49.5 per cent) while in rural areas, it's fourth after Assam (53.6), Uttar Pradesh (44.4) and West Bengal (34.4).

The overall BPL population ratio in the country, according to the Tendulkar report, is 29.8 per cent.

Noting that a "perception of discrimination and alienation" is the most "important concern" for Muslims when compared to other minorities, the Plan document has stressed on its "direct targeting" approach.

"Revamp the design, expand the scope and strengthen implementation structures of key initiatives such that minority settlements and people are directly targeted; such direct targeting should be made a condition for approval of all block- and district-level plans," the document stated.

For Modi, the visit to Delhi to attend the NDC meet is also like the customary victory lap after a third straight win at the hustings. He has claimed that his opponents were spreading "lies about Gujarat" in the course of the election campaign and underlined that his win was proof enough.

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