Published On:16 April 2012
Posted by Indian Muslim Observer

For India to become World Super Power focus on minorities is necessary: Union Minister Harish Rawat

By Pervez Bari

New Delhi: To see India become a World Super Power it is incumbent on one and all to focus on minorities in general and on Muslims in particular to bring them in the mainstream to enjoy the benefits of development as they have been left behind wading in illiteracy and poverty. For India to achieve this goal all the bogies of a train have to be strong and sturdy to reach the destination safely and smoothly. If this is not done then the journey would breakdown midway and ultimate goal can never be reached.

The above views were expressed by Union Minister of State for Agriculture, Food Processing Industries, Parliamentary Affairs Harish Chandra Singh Rawat while speaking in the plenary session on the second day of the 3-day International Conference on “Minority Rights and Identities: Challenges and Prospects in an Unfolding Global Scenario” at Constitutional Club of India n Saturday. The theme was Central and State Commissions/Committees about Minorities: An Appraisal.

The conference is being organised by the New Delhi-based Institute of Objective Studies, (IOS), as part of its IOS Silver Jubilee celebrations. This conference is the last conference in the year-long 14-conference series held in different parts of the country as part of the celebrations on completion of 25 years of its existence by the IOS.

Mr. Rawat congratulated Justice Rajendra Sachar for his Sachar Committee Report which extensively stated the pathetic condition of Muslims in the country who have been reduced to worse than Dalits in last more than six decades. He said implementation has now started on the committee’s report.

He wondered as to why the problems of Muslims are taken as a minority issue and not as a national issue when in day to day life it is seen the community is lagging far behind and is unable to enjoy the fruits of development. In this contest he hailed IOS think tank for its research and analysis and its yeoman service towards society in focusing issues and bringing it to the attention who matter in the corridors of power.

Mr. Rawat concurred with Wajahat Habibullah, Chairman, National Commission of Minorities (NCM), who had earlier addressing the session had said that the police force which does not know Urdu generally by just laying hands on some booklets and books in Urdu without reading it declares it as “Jehadi literature”. He stressed that those Muslim youths who have been arrested on terror charges and are languishing in jails without trial for years should be tried in special trial courts on day to day basis so that the accused woes are addressed expeditiously and justice is granted to them. He said he had full faith in the judiciary wherein judges do not come by way contesting elections but are selected on the basis of their capabilities as such the judiciary would take necessary steps to ameliorate the sufferings of these undertrials.

Presiding over the session Justice (Ms.) Ruma Pal, former Judge, Supreme Court of India, hoped that Institutional Prejudice found in police force and other departments against Muslims would end. She said that in the past efforts were made to change the perception of the police force towards minorities and especially towards Muslims but no concrete results could be achieved.

Justice (Ms.) Ruma Pal stressed that it is necessary to maintain a distance between the police force and politicians as the latter is prone to misuse the former for its vested interests. Until and unless some practical effective steps are taken in this regard the country cannot progress to achieve desired goal. She demanded the Muslim youths who are being targeted in the name of terror should be given relief at the earliest. To put an end and break on unlawful arrests and harassment of these youths special steps must be taken forthwith, she added.

Earlier, Wajahat Habibullah, Chairman, National Commission of Minorities, speaking on the occasion lamented that in cases of terrorism charge-sheets are not prepared properly by police against Muslim youths who have been arrested under alleged terror charges. Such police officials should be criminally charged, he added. He said that in this connection NCM had constituted a committee to bring out the true picture in cases related to Makkah Masjid blast in Hyderabad. The NCM then raised that 53 youths have been illegally arrested and forced to accept their role in the blast to implicate them in the cases. In Malegaon blasts cases also such a situation has developed. Such type of approach by the law enforcing agencies gives the impression that all Muslims are terrorists, he moaned.

Ravi Nair, Executive Director, South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre, New Delhi, said illegal arrests of Muslim youths has become the biggest problem of Muslims which has instilled an environment of fear among the minor community. He demanded that Action Taken Report, (ATR), on the basis of NCM reports should be brought before the public through media and other sources of communication and publicity.

Khwaja Abdul Muntaqim, Visiting Professor, Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, Amity University, Noida, threw light on the Rangnath Mishra Commission’s report and demanded implementation of its recommendations.

M.A. Basith, Senior Director, Planning Department, Govt. of Karnataka, spoke on Minorities and the Minority Commissions all over India, made a Power Point presentation on: “Past, Present and Future Role of National Minority Commission and State Minority Commissions across India”. At the end of his presentation he suggested the following points:-

• The NCM should be vested with powers of inquiry on par with other Constitutional bodies like the National Commission for Scheduled Castes, National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, National Human Rights Commission, the National Commission for Women and the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights.
• The conferment of Constitutional status to the National Commission for Minorities which is pending since 2004 should be expedited by the Central Government. Similar action needs to be taken in respect of State Minorities Commissions.
• Alternatively, the establishment of Equal Opportunity Commission as suggested in the Sachar Committee Report will redress the grievances of all communities in a better way.
• The NCM can devise uniform structured formats for reporting of information by itself and all the SMCs.
• There should be transparency in information about coverage of minorities in all activities. The NCM may also issue guidelines for reporting (like SEBI), which should be mandatory for compliance by SMCs.
• The NCM and SMCs should be given appropriate role and powers to monitor & review all developmental programmes & welfare schemes intended for the minorities under the PM’s new 15 Point Programme.
• The Commissions should undertake awareness campaigns to publicize the programmes of the Government by bringing out a compendium of schemes in English, local language and Urdu every year after the presentation of the budgets.
• State Governments should be encouraged to set up State Minorities Commissions in the States where they do not exist.
• The NCM and SMCs should have vibrant websites with information being updated every month. The website should have dynamic features by which people can raise their queries, for which replies could be provided in a time bound manner.
• The NCM should adopt Result Framework Document method for evaluation of its performance based on speed, efficiency and quality of service to the people. The same method has to be adopted by the SMCs.
• The NCM Act 1992, may be amended to make it necessary for the government to appoint chairpersons and members through a Selection Committee headed by Prime Minister as in the case of the National Human Rights Commission. The appointment of chairpersons and members to SMCs could also follow a similar procedure.
• The NCM is currently provided inadequate funds under Non-plan. These should be not only be substantially increased but also a target should be set for carrying Evaluation studies.
• NCM and SMCs have to frequently update themselves about the status of minorities in vital activities and take corrective action wherever required.
• The NCM and SMCs should conduct socio-economic surveys on economic development of minorities once in 5 years. This could be funded by MMA.
• The State Minorities Commissions face shortage of staff, posting of inefficient and unwilling persons and persons without the knowledge of matters pertaining to minorities. Mechanism for overcoming these problems need to be evolved.
• An exchange of information by the SMCs with the National Commission on all such matters and issues through a structured review meeting/video conferencing every month can be of immense help in mitigating the sufferings of minorities
• The National Commission for Minorities receives large number of complaints on law & order, service matters, minority institutions, economic matters, cultural rights, religion based harassment, waqf matters and compensation for the victims of the riots. Very less information is available on the recommendations made to the respective authorities for redressal of the grievances and resolving of the complaints. A mechanism to analyse and publish this information every six months may have to be devised.
• At present the impact of their programmes has minimal affect on the socio-economic development of Minorities. Higher government contribution may be provided including attracting capital from private sector.
• The Government has accorded in principle approval for restructuring of NMDFC. The Consultant appointed for the purpose has submitted his report which is under examination in the Ministry of Minority Affairs since few years. This report has to be debated before a decision is taken.
• State Minorities Development Corporations have to be established in all the States/UTs where these do not exist;
• As suggested by Ranganath Mishra Report concurrent evaluation is necessary to identify the gaps and or causes for tardy implementation and corrective measures taken midstream for realization of aims and objectives of the schemes/programmes.
• A mechanism to earmark flow of benefits to minorities in proportion to their population as existing for SCs & STs needs to be put in place at least for large programmes.
• An online management system is to be introduced for implementation and monitoring of all minority welfare schemes.
• The National Data Bank (NDB) which has been created on recommendation of Sachar Committee is inactive with very less data being exhibited on its website. The NDB should be empowered to get data relating to minority welfare in respect of government programmes, banking, educational institutions etc.
• The Central Government should introduce a few schemes with large outlays for welfare of minorities with an equitable provision for Muslims.

Meanwhile, Dr. Manzoor Alam, chairman of IOS, intervening said that a Systematic Bias is found everywhere against Muslims and till this continues there is no hope that Muslims and other communities will never get justice in the country. He also raised the question that why no law is ever made to checkmate those who are responsible to implement the government schemes in letter and spirit.

At the fag end of the session Dr. Manzoor Alam and Dr. Z. M. Khan, chairman and secretary general of IOS respectively, felicitated Ms. Justice Ruma Pal and Mr. Wajahat Habibullah with IOS awards. Prof. M. Afzal Wani, Faculty of Law, GTBIP University, Delhi conducted the session.

Meanwhile, three parallel sessions were held on the second day on the themes of Minority Rights in Theory and Practice; Minority Rights in Islamic Perspective and Role of Ulema in Developing Unity among Muslim Ummah.

[Pervez Bari is a senior Journalist based at Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. He is associated with IndianMuslimObserver.com as Bureau Chief (Madhya Pradesh). He can be contacted at pervezbari@eth.net]

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