The slow death of the Minority Affairs Ministry

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The slow death of the Minority Affairs Ministry

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It seems that the 17-year-old Ministry for Minorities Affairs is put on the deathbed, as for more than one year, there has been no full-fledged minister at the helm of affairs since July 2022, and its budget has also been massively cut. The ministry runs 14 welfare schemes, but four of them were recently scrapped. To top it all off, only a portion of the financial allocation designated for minority welfare has been used.

Despite its motto, “Sab Ka Saath, Sab Ka Vikas”, the BJP-led Union government seems to be unconcerned with the welfare of minorities.

Minority communities apprehend that the government is being deliberately undermined by the government in an effort to appease the “Hindutva Constituency.”

It was recently reported in a report by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Social Justice and Empowerment that the minority ministry was unable to use all of its budgetary allotment for the 2020–21 fiscal year.

According to the report, the funds were reduced by more than Rs 1,000 crore at the revised estimate stage “due to the slow pace of expenditure in the scholarship component.”

The report stated that the ministry could spend only 38.5% of funds up to Dec. 31, 2020, and there was a reduction of around Rs 1,024 crore over the budgetary allocation from the budget estimate to the revised estimate stage during 2020–21. This has become a regular feature since the BJP assumed power at the center.

Speaking with Islamic Voice, former Union Minister for Minority Affairs K. Rehman Khan said the current government has so far shown little interest in taking action to support minorities. We observe a rise in the budget for each sector every year. However, in this case, the monies were lowered, and the government even chose not to use those amounts. Khan keeps a close tab on the functioning of the ministry, as during his tenure many new schemes were launched.

Recently, the ministry discontinued the PadhoPardesh Interest Subsidy Scheme, which provided interest subsidies on education loans for students from minority communities who were pursuing studies abroad. All banks were notified of this change last month by the Indian Banks’ Association. The chosen nodal bank, Canara Bank, has been carrying out the scheme so far.

Earlier, it terminated the pre-matric scholarship available to students in Classes 1 through 8. The scheme is now only available to students in Classes 9 and 10. Both the Maulana Azad National Fellowship for Higher Education and the Nai Udaan Scheme, designed to aid minority candidates in getting ready for the preliminary exams held by the Union and State Public Service Commissions, have been eliminated.

Although the Action Agenda and the Strategy Document of the government think tank Niti Aayog highlighted the fact that Muslims and other religious minorities lag behind on development indicators despite the Center’s schemes for minorities, these programs have been discontinued.

The minority ministry currently offers 14 programs for six designated minority communities but has eliminated four of them and cut this year’s budget from Rs. 4,500 to Rs. 3,500.

Its justification for eliminating these scholarships is illogical. These fellowships and scholarships are given out to motivate students to finish their education as well as to urge parents to enroll their kids in schools and institutions. The results of the 75th round of the National Sample Survey on Education, conducted in 2017–18, show that Muslims have a greater dropout rate than people who belong to other religious minorities.

In a conversation with Islamic Voice, Jawed Alam Khan noted that religious minorities, notably Muslims, have lower education levels as a result of low budget allocations and underutilization of resources. Through policy initiatives like the Prime Minister’s New 15 Point Programme and the Pradhan Mantri Jan Vikas Karyakram, the Union government’s overall spending on minorities has decreased as a share of the total spending on the Union Budget from 2012–2013.

Jawed Alam Khan, who works with the Delhi-based Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability, also underlined that the minority ministry has been reduced constantly.

“Budget estimates show that the Ministry of Minority Affairs’ overall spending decreased from 0.14% in 2021-2022 to 0.12% in 2022-2023 as a percentage of the Union Budget. The Ministry of Minority Affairs received Rs 5,010 crore in 2022–2023 (budget estimate), compared to Rs 4,246.05 crore in 2021–2022 (updated estimates). The ministry spent Rs 3,920.29 crore in 2020–21 (actuals) as opposed to the Rs 5,029 crore budget projection for that year”.

Additionally, it appears that expenditures from the Union Budget have not been made in compliance with the ministry’s requests for funding. Only Rs 4,700 crore, instead of the ministry’s requested Rs 5,795.26 crore, was allotted for 2019–20. Only Rs 5,029 crore of the requested Rs 6,452 crore for 2020–21 was given.

Rehman Khan claimed that the Planning Commission during the UPA government allocated a budget of 27,000 rupees for the minority ministry over a five-year period, along with an additional 3,000 rupee grant, as opposed to the 40,000 rupees requested by the ministry, or roughly 6,000 rupees annually.

He noted that every sector’s budget has climbed since the BJP seized control of the government, but the Minority Ministry’s budget has decreased despite the fact that it should have been at least Rs 10,000 per year as every budget takes a 10 percent inflation rate into account.

Referring to the Waqf Development Corporation, the Central Waqf Council, and the 123 Waqf properties, the former minister said the government’s intention towards minorities is not good. He said in no uncertain terms that he was totally dissatisfied with the functioning of the ministry.

Echoing his views, Dr. John Dayal, activist and author, said the situation for minorities is not good, and organizations established to promote the welfare of minorities are not now in operation.

He said that since the BJP came to power, “they had the welfare of the minorities on their mind.”

We seem to be observers of the gradual demise of the Minority Ministry. At the moment, it is not clear who is in charge of the ministry—the second minister or minister of state, who has no power, while the bureaucracy too is totally disinterested in minority welfare.’

There was also a massive cut in the budget meant for minorities, which has been slashed by almost 40 percent. The allocation for the Ministry of Minority Affairs is now less than 0.1 percent of Rs 45 lakh crore, the total annual budget for 2023-24.