At a time when it was already grappling with the tedious task of deciding on the right kind of saris to be distributed to crores of poor women as a part of its pre-poll promise, a new demand, mainly from Muslim women, for salwar suits and not saris has made the Akhilesh Yadav government's job a little bit more difficult.
But the government, according to sources, is game to the idea and has no issues there.
The government started thinking about giving the Muslim women the option after district magistrates of some Muslim dominated districts, including Azamgarh and Mau, wrote to the chief secretary about it. “Some DMs have written to the government saying women in their districts want salwar suits and not saris which are proposed to be distributed to women belonging to the BPL families in cities and villages,” a senior official in the panchayati raj department told HT. The Samajwadi Party (SP) had in its election manifesto promised free saris, one each twice a year, to all women of 18 years or above in BPL families and one blanket a year to the a family member above 65 years of age.
As per the information available with the panchayati raj department that has been made the nodal body for the purpose, there are 106.79 lakh BPL families in Uttar Pradesh, including urban and rural. But what makes the government task difficult is that it has no data on the number of women and men eligible for the freebies (saris and blankets) in each BPL families. “We have asked the DMs to send inputs to us in this regard and we have already got information from around two dozen districts,” said an official.
For estimate sake, the government presumes each BPL family to have two women eligible for a sari and one elderly man/woman for a blanket. “But this seems to be a conservative estimate only and the real picture may be different,” the official said. The state government has allocated only R200 crore in the budget for the purpose for the year 2012-13 and the amount is being seen as too small.
The official said the government was already finding it difficult to prepare guidelines for the purchase of saris and blankets as it was a cumbersome task, delaying the distribution of the freebies, “Now, implementation of the promise on distribution of saris and blankets may further get delayed if the government decides on salwar-suits to Muslim women,” he pointed out. Meanwhile, a high-level committee headed by minister, panchayati raj, Balram Singh Yadav is meeting early next month to discuss all the tricky issues in this connection. The committee was constituted recently to prepare guidelines for the purchase and distribution of saris and blankets and resolve other related matters to fast-track implementation of the pre-poll promise.