Hyderabad, Sep 27 (IANS) AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi on Monday urged the Telangana government to announce a scheme on the lines of 'Dalit Bandhu' for economic empowerment of extremely poor Muslims in the state.The Hyderabad MP made the demand while addressing a symposium on "Muslims in Telangana: Poverty and other challenges".Stating that Telangana's Muslims face deprivation like Dalits, he demanded that Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao to extend the same benefits provided under 'Dalit Bandhu' to Muslims living below poverty line.Under 'Dalit Bandhu' launched last month on pilot basis in Huzurabad constituency, the state government is providing a grant of Rs 10 lakh to every Dalit family. The scheme aims at empowering Dalits and enabling entrepreneurship among them through a direct benefit transfer."If extremely poor Muslim households are given the same amount, it would go a long way in improving their lives," said the President of All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM).Terming Dalit Bandhu a revolutionary scheme, Owaisi pointed out that this is the country's largest cash transfer programme. He hailed the 'visionary' step by the Chief Minister."We welcome the scheme and demand that Telangana take similar affirmative action for Muslims - not on the basis of religion but on strength of their deprivation and marginalisation," he saidThe Lok Sabha member pointed out that there are around 8.8 Muslim households in Telangana, and the Centre for Economic and Social Studies (CESS) has estimated that about 8.5 per cent Muslims live under below poverty line."It is safe to assume that at least 1-2 per cent of these households live in abject poverty and need urgent measures to protect them. Ideally, at least 18,000 households should be considered for this scheme. This would amount to only Rs 1,800 crore as a one-time expense for the state but its benefits would far outlast the expense as a whole generation could be saved from abject poverty," he said.Owaisi said if this amount is considered too much, at least one per cent or 9,000 households should be covered, which would amount to only Rs 900 crore."This is not an astronomical amount by any measure. We wouldn't even need new allocation: the unutilised minority budget in the last 4 years would amount to Rs 1,800 crore," he said.Owaisi said his party will raise this demand in the ongoing Assembly session and exuded confidence that the Chief Minister will announce and implement the scheme.Experts at the symposium provided empirical data on social, educational and economic backwardness of Muslims in Telangana.Muslims constitute 12.8 per cent of the population of Telangana, numbering nearly 4.8 million in a total population of 38 million. Despite being overwhelmingly urban, the Muslim population is the second poorest, just marginally above the predominantly rural Scheduled Tribes (ST). According to the findings of the Sudhir Commission, about 48 per cent of Muslim households in the State live on an income of less than Rs 10,000 a month.
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