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Published On:30 September 2011
Posted by Indian Muslim Observer

SPECIAL REPORT: Chief Minister Narendra Modi eyes national role, but not much for Muslims in Swarnim Gujarat

Gujarat CM Narendra Modi sets eyes on national role. His vibrant and Swarnim Gujarat has not much for Muslims. An inside story of another Gujarat, writes our senior colleague and IndianMuslimObserver.com Bureau Chief (Gujarat) Abdul Hafiz Lakhani

Ahmedabad: Do Muslims really have equal opportunities and infrastructure in Gujarat? Modi has won successive elections in Gujarat since 2002 even while his role in the riots was under probe by the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team. How do Muslims negotiate their rights as citizens with a government that has refused to even acknowledge the extent of the pogrom?

Rakhial is a lower middle-class neighbourhood located 5 km north of Maninagar, Chief Minister Modi’s constituency in east Ahmedabad. Of the three large housing colonies located here — Sukhram Nagar, Shivanand Nagar and Sundaram Nagar — Muslims live in the third. Built as a mixed colony in the 1970s, it became a ghetto after the 2002 riots.

National Highway 8 cuts through the settlement and Hindus and Muslims on either side of this refer to it as the “border”, a term common in several other Gujarat neighbourhoods where the two communities live cheek by jowl.

Besides this road that cuts through the colonies, a sharp contrast of infrastructure separates the Hindu and Muslim neighbourhoods; a contrast most telling and disturbing in the condition of government primary schools for which the state provides land, buildings and funds for maintenance and facilities like libraries.

A dilapidated structure with a tin roof broken at several places serves as the municipal primary school for 600 children in Muslim-dominated Sundaram Nagar. One part of this rundown building serves as a Gujarati medium school up to Class VII. At the other end, a tin-covered structure open on all sides is used as a classroom to teach Urdu to over 200 students in Classes I to IV.

Less than 2 km away, in the same municipal ward of Rajpur, a three-storey building serves as a Gujarati medium school up to Class VII in Hindu-dominated Shivanand Nagar. Sukhram Nagar has a Hindi medium school up to Class VII that is a three-storey building with stone mosaic work depicting Hindu goddesses.

“Those living here cannot afford to send their children to private schools and the government takes no responsibility to improve the school,” says Sheikh Ahesan, in his mid 20s, who started the Student Welfare and Education Trust in 2007.

Ahesan and his friends have provided floor mats to kids in the Sundaram Nagar municipal school. “Anyone could stand a fair chance by studying and looking for work in the private sector. But how will these children reach there when they do not get to go to a half-decent primary school?” asks Sheikh Usmaan, a member of the trust.

Muslim families living in Rakhiyal narrate countless struggles to get benefits such as educational loans. “For my MBA admission, I went with my uncle to ask Dena Bank for a Rs 1.25 lakh loan. They asked for collateral and discouraged me from applying. Then I got aid from a Muslim trust,” recounts Sheikh Shehzaad. The Central scheme he is referring to is one of the key proposals adopted after the publication of the 2005 Sachar Committee report that mandates banks to give educational loans up to Rs 4 lakh without any collateral to students from poor minority families.

“The bank is asking for income tax returns and PAN card. Where will we get this from?” asks Ghori Firdaus, a homeopathy student, about her experience at the State Bank of India that moved its branch from Sundaram Nagar to the Hindu-dominated Odhav area across the road after 2002. It is to help students like Firdaus, whose father is an autorickshaw driver, that the scheme has flexible rules — the family’s income certificate and an affidavit certifying religion from the Collector’s office are suffice to qualify.

“We are able to pool small amounts among ourselves to help these students but some months, especially during admission time, we don’t know what to do because we cannot risk rejection by these banks,” says Shehzaad.

A key finding of the Sachar Committee report was that drop-out rates are highest among Muslims. Their mean years of schooling are lower than SCs and STs at a little over three years. In 2008, the Centre started a scholarship scheme for minorities, to be shared in a 75:25 ratio between the Centre and state to encourage students from poor families to complete schooling.

Since the scheme started, Gujarat has let the funds lapse by not sending any proposal to the Centre for giving these scholarships.
At first, the state government found faults with the scheme saying this targets religious minorities and is discriminatory on “principles of equity and financial implications”.

The Gujarat High Court settled this question when it recognised the Central scheme as constitutionally valid in March 2009. This April, contradicting its own stand in an affidavit filed in response to the PIL in the high court, the government cited a scholarship for minorities that has existed in the state since 1979. It said, since this scheme exists, there is no need for implementing the Central scheme.

The state government added another argument in the affidavit. It said executing the Central scheme for a limited number of students — the Ministry of Minority Affairs (MMA) calculated 52,260 scholarships on the basis of population and income levels among Gujarat’s minorities — will cause “heartburn” among those minority students who do not enjoy the benefits.

But who is stopping the state government from covering the remaining students using additional funds? MMA data shows that in 2010-11, a less developed state like Rajasthan disbursed more than double the year’s target of 60,109 scholarships. Bihar also disbursed more than double its target of 1,45,809 scholarships. Uttar Pradesh disbursed over 130 percent of a target of 3,37,109, and West Bengal — that has one of the highest proportion of Muslims — disbursed 400 percent of its target of 2,22,309. In all these instances, state governments have increased their allocation because of the high quantum of applications; the Centre has matched their funds bearing 75 percent of the total cost.

[Abdul Hafiz Lakhani is a senior Journalist based at Ahmedabad, Gujarat. He is associated with IndianMuslimObserver.com as Bureau Chief (Gujarat). He can be reached at lakhani63@yahoo.com or on his cell 09228746770]

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Posted by Indian Muslim Observer on September 30, 2011. Filed under , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Feel free to leave a response

By Indian Muslim Observer on September 30, 2011. Filed under , . Follow any responses to the RSS 2.0. Leave a response

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