Minorities feel short-changed

Print edition : April 01, 2016

THE absence of any new policy initiative or fresh programmes for education or skill enhancement in the Budget has left the religious minorities unhappy. “We are not shocked. If it had been any different, we would have been surprised. This is a government that does not believe in the uplift of the minorities despite the slogan of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas,” said Sayed Arshad Madani, president of Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind. “Forget a positive push for education of minorities, the government looks at minority institutions with suspicion,” he added.

At a discussion on the Budget organised by the New Delhi-based Majlis-e-Mushawarat, participants, including the president of Mushawarat, Navaid Hamid, expressed dissatisfaction with the Finance Minister’s proposals. The allocation for the Ministry for Minority Affairs has been increased nominally from Rs.3,738 crore to Rs.3,827 crore. A little over 50 per cent of this amount has been allocated for educational empowerment of minorities.

Uniformity among madrasas

The allocation for madrasa modernisation was unexpected. The UPA-II government had taken up the project in a big way to bring about uniformity among madrasas by encouraging secular and vocational education in them. According to Abdur Rashid Agwan, president of the Delhi Mushawarat, the UPA-II government allotted around Rs.190 crore when the scheme was first floated around seven years ago. The amount was increased to Rs.285 crore last year, and a matching allocation was expected. However, Arun Jaitley has allotted just Rs.120 crore for it this year, which community leaders believe is grossly insufficient.

While many madrasas are unregistered, others are registered with the Central Wakf Board and many more are registered with State governments. Only registered madrasas are eligible for funds. Abdur Rashid Agwan said Rs.192 crore was spent last year on the salaries of teachers of non-theological subjects such as mathematics, English and Hindi. Similarly, around 40 per cent of the grant was spent on computerisation of madrasas. In the absence of matching funds, this project was in danger of being stalled.

According to a Jamiat member, the government has made a major reduction on the social front. “Technically, there is a nominal increase in the Budget allocation, but adjusted against inflation it is grossly insufficient to carry on the schemes started in recent years,” the member said.

For the promotion of the Urdu language, only Rs.20 crore has been allotted and for the Hajj subsidy Rs.40 crore. “If this trend continues, it will sound the death knell for Urdu,” rued a member of the National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language, requesting anonymity. “We will raise the issue with the Finance Minister and hopefully, as in the case of EPF, he will think afresh about Urdu too,” the member added.

Incidentally, many of the schemes for the promotion of education among minorities are in bad shape because of the big gap in the allocation as proposed and the actual release of funds. For instance, under the Twelfth Plan, the Maulana Azad National Fellowship scheme was to receive Rs.430 crore for the period ending 2017. Until now it has, however, received only 60 per cent of the amount. Similarly, for the National Minorities Development and Finance Corporation, of the proposed Rs.600 crore in the Twelfth Plan, only Rs.377 crore has been released. With the government not to continue with the Plan cycle, the future of the schemes is uncertain.

Similarly, a couple of new programmes, Nai Manzil and the Upgrading the Skills and Training in Traditional Arts/Crafts for Development (USTAAD) scheme, were announced in the last two fiscal years with the objective of bringing about inclusive development of minorities. Nai Manzil concentrates on education and skill development among school dropouts and is important considering the high dropout rate among Muslims. USTAAD aims to preserve traditional art and crafts while promoting the growth of artisans and craftsmen among minorities. Again, considering the vast multitudes involved in zari, gota and carpet weaving, it is an important scheme. Budget 2016-17 has allocated Rs.155 crore for Nai Manzil and only Rs.20 crore for USTAAD. The decline in the finances for USTAAD is particularly surprising, considering that the scheme was launched with fanfare by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and his own Lok Sabha constituency, Varanasi, stood to gain. Varanasi has a high percentage of Muslim artisans and craftsmen engaged in weaving and making wooden lacquer ware and so on.

Ziya Us Salam

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