Gaping Holes in Ministry of Minority Affairs
The ‘Social Development Report 2012: Minorities at the Margins’ reveals misplaced focus of minority-oriented programmes.
New Delhi: Even as minority politics takes centre stage in the wake of the recent riots in Uttar Pradesh, a report by the Council for Social Development shows how the UPA government has failed to implement the recommendations of the Sachar Committee, with its response to Muslim deprivation at best being “cautious and minimalist”. The report said most of the benefits intended for minorities were being cornered by either the majority population or non-Muslim minorities.
The report listed misplaced focus of minority-oriented programmes, lack of funds and fear of ‘minority appeasement’ taunts as the reasons for the government’s failure to fulfill its promises.
The ‘Social Development Report 2012: Minorities at the Margins’ was prepared by Zoya Hasan, Mushirul Hasan, Tanweer Fazal, Javed Alam Khan and Abusaleh Sharif among others.
For example, the report illustrates how programmes intended to improve school education among Muslims has focused on modernization of madrasas even though only 4% Muslims go there for education. In higher studies, the government has focused on providing assistance to minority institutions rather than expanding the overall education network to include Muslims.
It also brought out the failure of multi-sectoral development programme (MSDP) — launched after the Sachar Committee’s report — targeting 90 districts with around 25% Muslim population for infrastructure development through enhanced funding. The report noted that benefits of the scheme reached only 30% of Muslim population in these areas, indicating others have cornered most of the resources. In states such as Bihar and Uttar Pradesh (with high concentration of Muslims), infrastructure projects have been diverted to non-minority areas.
The Reserve Bank of India’s efforts to extend banking and credit facilities to Muslims, a major fallout of the Sachar Committee report which said Muslims were out of the banking system, has also ended up benefiting non-Muslim minorities whose socio-economic status is comparable to upper caste Hindus, the report said.
“Diffidence at the policy level to clearly focus on Muslim deprivation translates into active reluctance by the implementing agencies on the ground to target the Muslims even in districts with high Muslim concentration,” the report said.
Mushirul Hasan blamed the minority affairs ministry for such failures. He told the Times of India, “The ministry has become a liability. It is devoid of any ideas and lacks social commitment.” The ministry came into existence in January 2006, after the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance split the ministry of social justice and empowerment to exclusively look after the wellbeing of five minorities: Muslims (13.4 per cent of the population), Christains (2.3 per cent), Sikhs (1.9 per cent), Buddhists (0.8 per cent) and Parsis (less than a lakh). In the 11th Five-year Plan (2007-2012), the government allocated Rs 7,000 crore to the ministry, of which it claims to have spent Rs 6,824 crore. The budget for the 12th Five-year Plan (2012-2017) has been more than doubled to Rs 17,323 crore. However, the report by Zoya Hasan and Mushirul Hasan says that during 2007-2012, the states failed to utilise half of the allocated funds. Some states spent only 20 per cent. The ministry of minority affairs passes on the money allocated for various schemes to the states, which are then responsible for spending it. In this case, while the ministry may have passed on almost the entire money, the implementation by the states has been tardy. That explains the discrepancy in numbers. In its infancy, the ministry continued to work on the lines of its parent ministry. It almost remained dormant until the Justice Rajinder Sachar Committee on economic, social and education of Muslims was tabled in Parliament in November 2006. The Committee was appointed in 2005. Its key recommendations were: set up an Equal Opportunity Commission to look into grievances of deprived groups like minorities, create a nomination procedure to increase participation of minorities in public bodies, increase employment share of Muslims, recognise degrees from madrasas for eligibility in defence, civil and banking examinations, and provide financial and other support to initiatives built around occupations where Muslims are concentrated and that have growth potential. The government accepted most of its recommendations. With the Sachar Committee report, the ministry brought about some changes to its thinking and started redrafting polices, which are now being denounced as ineffective by activists and intellectuals.
According to the report, both funding and its utilization have been a problem. In the 11th plan, allocation for minorities was 6% of the total outlay with minority affairs ministry’s share being only 0.79%. The report called it insignificant to address minority development. It also noted that unlike SC/ST, budgetary plans for minorities were not proportional to their population.
Even these funds are not utilized properly. During 2007-2012, state governments did not utilize even half of the allocated funds. Twelve states utilized less than 50% of funds and some states spent only 20%. States such as Bihar, UP, Maharashtra and Assam (all with high concentration of Muslims) were in the category of those that spent less than 50%.
Government’s scholarship scheme for Muslim students has been widely praised, but the report found it to be too little and poorly implemented.