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18 January 2012

GUEST EDITORIAL: Minorities not at ease with UPA government

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By Syed Ali Mujtaba

Even as elections in the five Indian states is around the corner, including the one in the Uttar Pradesh, where there is largest concentration of Muslim community, there are three bills pushed by the UPA government that are facing flake from the minority community.

The are three legislation; Direct Taxes Code Bill 2010, Wakf (Amendment) Bill 2010 and Right to Education Act 2009, that are creating flutter among the minority community. Unless some policy statement from the government does not come out to sooth the angered sentiments of the minorities, it may have bearing on the up coming poll prospects in the several states.


Direct Taxes Code Bill 2010: The Direct Tax Code Bill 2010 (DTC Bill) propose to tax donations received by charitable institutions that are meant to serve certain minority or community groups.

The clause in question in the DTC Bill that the Centre is looking to pass and bring in force by 2012, exempts trusts or institutions from availing income tax exemption on donations if they are meant to serve any particular minority or community group.

To be more precise, the DTC Bill proposes a 30 per cent tax on donations received by institutions as long as they don’t promise to serve all communities, instead of focusing on any one particular group.

The Forum of Minority Institutions & Associations and the Federation of Charitable & Religious Trusts have attacked the DTC Bill provisions on a variety of levels, ranging from taxation philosophy and jurisprudence to practicality and compassion.

They say; the DTC bill strikes at the basis of Indian society and undermines the religious character of its citizen. An Indian, true to his nation/religion cannot bear with this atrocious legislation.

The Forum of Minority Institutions & Associations and the Federation of Charitable & Religious Trusts are campaigning that such trusts running minority educational institutions, hospitals, schools, etc will be under sever financial strain if the Bill is passed as being presented and have urged the Centre to redraft sections of the DTC Bill.
Wakf (Amendment) Bill 2010: The Government had, with unnecessary haste, got the Wakf Bill passed in Lok Sabha on the last day of its session. This Bill is full of defects; even definitions are very defective and contain many provisions which will result in usurpation and extinction of many Wakf properties.

Muslim outfits have raised apprehensions over some clauses of Wakf (Amendment) Bill 2010, saying they "blatantly" ignore the recommendations of Sachar committee.
The bill, which was passed in Lok Sabha and now awaiting Rajya Sabha's nod, proposes a series of changes in the way Wakf properties are managed across the country.

The ministry of minority affairs that’s headed by Salman Khursheed who is also the law minister, has overlooked and ignored vital recommendations of the Sachar committee as well as the joint parliamentary committee (JPC) on the functioning of Wakf boards.

The compulsory Wakf surveys recommended by the JPC have been made optional in the bill, while suggestions of inclusion of all post-Independence cases of Wakf for survey have also been dropped.

Treatment of Wakf survey commissioner's notification as deemed mutation for purposes of revenue records and determination of title of property, as recommended by the JPC, has also been not included in the bill.

The other criticism against bill is that the ministry has diluted the definition of the word "encroacher."

Muslim organizations have asked the Archaeological Survey of India to properly conserve the Wakf properties under it and have demanded that structures such as mosques and other religious structure should be allowed to be used for the "purposes they are meant for.

They are pitching for a public movement if the government does not heed to their demands.
Right to Education Act 2009: There are two provisions of the Right to Education Act 2009 that intrudes into the rights of the private educational institutions and more importantly the minority education institutions.

Section 3 of the Act imposed an absolute mandate upon all schools including private unaided and minority institutions to admit without any choice each and every child whosoever comes to take admission in the said schools in the neighborhood.

Second, Section 21 of the RTE Act requires that 75 per cent of a school’s management committee should consist of guardians or parents. This provisions if implemented, would violate the Constitution and the National Commission for Minority Educational Institution Guidelines.

Provisions of the Act violates the rights of private educational institutions under Article 19(1)(g) which provides maximum autonomy to private managements to run their institutions without any interference from the government.

Under Article 30 of the Constitution, minorities in India are allowed to run and administer their own education institutions, without any government interference except in cases of alleged corruption.

Articles 29 and 30 of the constitution provide the right to preserve distinct minority languages, scripts and cultures. It also grants minorities the right to establish and administer their own educational institutions.

Therefore RTE act 2009 strikes a lethal blow on the minority educational institutions; it not only compromises on the quality of education but also takes away autonomy of the management which has been guaranteed by Art 29 and 30 of the constitution.

The minority groups are urging the government to bring certain amendment to RTE Act 2009 and exempt the minority educational institutions from the ambit of the act. The Section 3 and 21 of the RTE Act specially needs revision as it can’t override Article 30 of the Constitution.

The UPA government is already in the dock over the non implementation of the Lok Pal bill. The wrath of the minority communities over the above mentioned three bills is going to make the things more difficult for it at the hustings.

Unless some firefighting activity is not done immediately on this count, the slipping moral of the UPA cannot be arrested.

[Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba@yahoo.com]

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