Even as the UPA government projected itself as a champion of minorities as part of its "secular agenda" for the nation, schemes initiated for the community's benefit have continued to function poorly with many of them not reaching the targeted beneficiaries, a report by a committee constituted by the centre to study their effectiveness has found.
While commending the government for increasing the amount of scholarships for students belonging to minority communities, the report by the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) professor Amitabh Kundu-led committee points out a number of loopholes in their proper disbursal. It says that enough scholarships are not being sanctioned and, in some cases, they are being "siphoned off due to corrupt practices."
The report, submitted to Minority Affairs Minister K. Rahman Khan in March and accessed now by IANS, confirms the criticisms that have been made against the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government regarding the implementation of these schemes. It especially slams the Prime Minister's 15 point programme for minorities, which was announced in 2005 and seeks to enhance opportunities for education and ensure equitable share for minorities in economic activities and employment through exisiting and new schemes.
The report also criticised the implementation of the Multi-Sector Development Programme, an area development initiative to address the development deficit of minority concentrated areas by creating socio-economic infrastructure and providing basic amentities. The BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi has also targeted the central government during his election campaign for not running these schemes properly. Activists have also criticised the government often for the same reason.
The government initiated these schemes -- specially focussed at 90 Minority Concentrated Districts in the country where the minority population exceeds 25 percent -- after the Sachar panel submitted its recommendations in 2006 on measures needed to uplift the lot of the minority communities in the country. The report noted that a high drop-out rate of Muslim youth from educational institutions affects their chances in the job market.
On the establishment of Integrated Child Development Services/Anganwadi centres, it says that since 2009-10, "there has been decline in the establishment of number of Anganwadi centres." When it comes to healthcare, the report states that Muslims "lag behind even from the Scheduled Castes in terms of access to amenities." Discussing their share in economic activity and employment, the report points out that it remains much lower than their over-all numbers.
The report notes that the "lower percentage of Muslim households participating in public employment programme, compared to Hindu or Christian households, suggests that any overt employment programme is unlikely to address the problem of the Muslims". According to the census, Muslims account for 13.4 percent of the total population. Christians account for 2.3 percent whereas the Sikhs are 1.9 percent of the total population. Jains, Buddhists and Others complete the figure. The Hindu population is estimated at 80.5 percent.
The committee also found that the targets set under employment schemes for the minority communities have "been very low and the achievements have been insignificant." When it comes to extending financial credit to Muslims, the committee did not find the situation satisfactory.
"The loan amount disbursed as credit by National Minorities Development and Finance Corporation over the years has increased but not to the extent projected or expected...However, given the expanse and depth of deprivation among minorities, especially among the Muslims, and size of their population, there is an urgent need to increase the credit amount and number of beneficiaries," the committee has opined in its report.
Discussing maintenance and management of Waqf properties, the report suggests the creation of an organisation on the lines of Tabung Haji in Malaysia and by making it "Shariah compliant". "The corporation can be given a boost by making its functioning Shariah compliant as a section of Muslims stay away from interest-based projects and usurious transactions. The corporation could work towards creating a level playing field with other Muslim welfare/affairs organsiations such as Tabung Haji of Malaysia. This would also attract investments from Muslims in large numbers strengthening the Corporation and extending larger welfare to greater number of people," it says.
Tabung Haji funds the haj pilgrims of Malaysia by investing in Shariah-complaint ventures. On the issue of reservation for Muslims, which was promised yet again by the Congress in its supplementary manifesto released during its poll campaign, chairman of the committee Amitabh Kundu told IANS that "there is no dearth of evidence both from primary and secondary sources that Other Backward Classes (OBC) among Muslims are much poorer and socially deprived than the non-Muslim OBCs.
"Consequently, Muslim OBCs are facing unequal competition with the others within the OBC category. Our committee deliberated on this issue for long and in great depth, based on all studies available and sponsored by itself on the subject, and accepted the proposition that the OBC Muslims are not getting a legitimate share within the category. The government must therefore propose remedial actions." Kundu said.
He also added that the government can create a separate quota for the Most Backward OBCs which will include both Hindus and Muslims and will be based entirely on socio-economic indicators.