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14 September 2011

EDITORIAL: The UPA government is failing on the minority front

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By Abdul Rashid Agwan


Indian minorities are fortunate enough in having a renowned economist hailing from one of the minority communities as the prime minister of the country for the last seven years. That could be the desired climax of any odyssey of hope. However, neither Dr Manmohan Singh himself nor the coterie of his ministers could spawn any real hope among members of minority communities all these years. The initial euphoria and enthusiasm generated by the UPA’s interest in the development of minorities in the backdrop of constitution of Sachar Committee and Justice Rangnath Mishra Commission has grossly evaporated as no reasonable action has been taken on their recommendations.


At the outset, the top level ministerial squabbles in dealing with minority affairs should be taken into account. Some time back, a leading newspaper informed that the Ministry of Minority Affairs could spend just 5% of the budgeted amount from April to December 2008. The main reason ascribed for this glaring impasse was the non-release of funds from the ministry of finance. The other imparted blame was the dearth of proposals from the district administration and the state government concerned as regards infrastructure development in the minority concentration districts (MCDs) under Multi-Sectoral Development Programme. Perhaps it is the same story year by year during the whole stint of the UPA government.


The year-wise utilization of allocated funds to the Ministry of Minority Affairs is another aspect of the concern. As per annual reports of the ministry, an outlay of Rs 7000 crore has been made in the eleventh Five Year Plan (2007-12) for its schemes, programmes and activities. Accordingly, the ministry was allotted respectively Rs 500 crore in 2007-08, Rs 1000 crore in 2008-09, Rs 1740 crore in 2009-10, Rs 2500 crore in 2010-11 and Rs 2600 crore in 2011-12; showing an excess outlay of Rs 1340 crore over and above the planned one. However, the actual reported expenditure of the ministry comes out to be respectively Rs 196.65 crore (39%), 619.02 crore (62%), Rs 1709.41 crore (98%) and 1470.62 crore (59%) from 2007-2011. That means, of Rs 5740 crore allotted amount for minority welfare only Rs 3995.7 crore could be utilized by December 2010, comprising 69.6% of the revised outlays of the planned budget of the ministry during the first four years. There is every likelihood that this expenditure also comprises the major amount of scholarships which have been apprehended as not reached to many of the listed beneficiaries and thousands of the concerning cheques were reported stranded amidst bureaucratic maneuvering. Many states are forwarding scholarship forms quite below their specified quotas and Gujarat government has refused to send even one. The central government is also feeling helpless in dealing with the non-performing states except threatening that their approved quota will be transferred to the better performing states.


The Centre for Equity Studies holds, “The dismal utilization of the multi-sectoral development programmes (MSDP) funds in 2010-11 are reflected in the fact that by the end of the third quarter the government has managed to spend only 22 percent less than a quarter. West Bengal has spent 30 percent while Bihar managed to spend just 18 percent of the MSDP allocation”. The CES which investigates ‘flagship programmes’ for minority development launched in response to recommendations of the Sachar Committee, highlights the fact that minorities make up 19% of the country’s population, but the budgetary allocation for schemes meant for them is just above 5% of the total plan allocation in 2010-11. Per capita plan allocation for minorities in 2010-11 is a mere Rs. 797 (against Rs. 1,521 for STs and Rs. 1,228 for SCs), adds the report.


The Department of Woman and Child Development has recently complained that the Ministry of Minority Affairs has planned for Scheme for Leadership Development of Minority Women several months back with an allocation of Rs 15 crore but so far it has been proven non starter. The ministry has short listed several NGOs for implementation of the scheme in different parts of the country but it was complained by many NGOs, genuinely working for the development of minorities for decades, that they have been denied access to the scheme through a faulty process and arbitrary decision and such NGOs and outfits were selected under the process which have no background of working among minority communities. The scheme is presently lying suspended.


The Ministry of Human Resource Development is also not happy with the MMA since it has failed to release the current years’ fund of Rs 58 crore for its fellowship scheme to be implemented through University Grants Commission. The aspirants are approaching for the fellowship grants to the UGC but the latter feels inability to oblige the research fellows of minority communities in the want of earmarked amount from the MMA. The UGC is discontended with the MMA since the latter’s inaptness is tarnishing its image as well.


The UPA government has to recently swallow an embarrassment from the Ministry of HRD when it suspended payment of funds to the National Commission of Minority Educational Institutions as a punishment for the latter’s order of granting minority status to Jamia Millia Islamia and its staff did not receive salaries for months together. The Commission got its due only after the intervention of the prime minister and the threat given by Jamiatul Ulema Hind to launch an Anna Hazare type agitation against persecution of minorities to the hilt. Kapil Sibbal the Minister of HRD, who won his election from a Muslim concentration area of old Delhi, is annoying members of minority communities by his insistence on several anti-minority decisions appertained to running institutions under article 30(1), guidelines for Right To Education Act, reservations of seats in minority universities, etc.


The Minister of Minority Affairs Salman Khurshid is spoiling his own case as the vanguard of minority welfare by opposing the understandable recommendations of the bodies constituted by the UPA government itself. His statements that Sachar Committee Report’s suggestions are not inviolable like the verses of the Quran and that its recommendations will lead to ghettoization of the Muslim community have been taken up by members of the largest minority community of the country as disgusting; which may further distract them from the UPA and cause an added frustration of the community. The aerated promise of 15% reservation for minorities in the public services through the 2004 Congress manifesto,  tabled report of Justice Rangnath Mishra Commission and popular speeches of the Congress leadership every now and then, including Salman Khurshid,  seems put in the cold storage now. 


It will be evident from real functioning of the UPA government that the Congress-led government is playing the same old ‘appeasement’ card by which it wishes to please minorities by putting tons of promises without performing a bit. Its minority mantra seems to be “Say much, do little”. If the government headed by a member of minority community fails to deliver some real good to the minorities in the country, there could be no other better time for them. Three years of the present term of the UPA government is still pending and may be Dr Manmohan Singh and his cabinet will succeed in realizing the promised goal of inclusive development in the country. He must recall his words proclaimed on the pulpit of Red Fort on an independence day a few years back that minorities have the first right on the nation’s resources.

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