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Minority schemes, a failure, non-starter, says Center for Equity Studies

July 25, 2011 by  
Filed under newsletter-lead

Muslim women and men line up for free weekly ration from an NGO in a village in Murshidabad, West Bengal

Muslim women and men line up for free weekly ration from an NGO in a village in Murshidabad, West Bengal

23 July 2011, New Delhi: This was the last thing the Congress led UPA needed, particularly just before UP elections. A study by Center for Equity Studies (CES) headed by Harsh Mander, has termed the Center’s minority welfare schemes as failure and non-starters. The CES report blames a variety of reasons for the sorry state of affair, including lack of political will and “timidity in declaring schemes Muslim-Oriented” because of the fear of the opposition’s charges of “minority appeasement.” This fear of political backlash has led to the government’s hesitant attitude on the Muslim word which has consequently “diluted the community approach” of these schemes. So, thanks to this fear, a potentially effective schemes like Multi-Sectoral Development Programmes has become just an “area programmes”, reducing the scheme to just “tokenism”
 
“Perhaps the Ministry (of Minority Affairs) has been unable to cut through the tired, and by now defeated argument, that schemes specially for Muslims is potentially socially disruptive, and hence best avoided,” says the report. So the CES report asks the government to have the political will and recommends creating a separate budgetary sub-plan for investment exclusively on development programmes for Muslims, in the way that governments have done for Scheduled Castes and Tribes.
 
The CES study which investigates ‘flagship programmes’ for minority development launched in response to recommendations of the Sachar Committee, highlights the fact that minorities make up 19 % of the country’s population but the budgetary allocation for schemes meant for them is just above 5 % of total plan allocation in 2010-11. Per capita plan allocation for minorities in 2010-11 is a mere Rs. 797 (against Rs. 1521 for STs; Rs. 1228 for SCs), adds the report. “The scale of government interventions is too small to touch even the fringes of the numbers who live with these deprivations,” says the CES study report which took 3 Muslim majority districts for its study: Darbhanga in Bihar, 24 Parganas in West Bengal and Mewat in Haryana, while highlighting the complete institutional failure of the government in dealing with the development deficit which was highlighted by the Sachar report.
 
The report has also questioned the role and ability of the Ministry of Minority Affairs, saying that it lacked the political authority and conviction to ensure compliance form other ministries. “The institutional structures designed to implement these initiatives – right from the union Ministry of Minority Affairs to implementing officials in districts and below – lack conviction, clout and even a clear mandate to directly battle the socio-economic structural discrimination and denial encountered by the community,” says the report which is expected to create new controversies. Talking about Multi-Sectoral Development programmes, the report highlights non-utilization of even the “limited” funds allocated to MSDP. In total the Ministry of Minoirities Affairs has a plan allocation of 2600 crore for 2010-11, but the utilization of MsDP funds for 2010-11, was a mere 22 % by the middle of third quarter for the whole country. Expenditures were as low as 18 % in Bihar, and a little higher at 30% in West Bengal, shows the report.
 
Charging eth government, central as well as state, of institutional discrimination in even spending the MsDP funds, the study says that “officers (who prepare area development programme for the MSDP) are not required to – and are often actively discouraged from – actually targeting to expenditure to Muslim dominated villages.” The study points out an instance from Mewat district in Haryana, a district with 80% Muslims in a state in which they constitute barely 5%of the total population, has less than 5000 Muslim students in secondary school.The condition of one school in the district was found to be “a dilapidated building, barren courtyard and dingy classrooms”. But interestingly instead of spending MsDP funds to upgrade this school, the state government preferred to “spend it on a neighboring wealthier non-Muslim village.”
 
The same pattern is being followed in the entire three districts under study. In Darbhanga for instance, in 2009-10, 66 new primary schools were opened under Sarva Siksha Abhiyan reportedly for the betterment of the educational access of the minorities of the district. But only 7 of these 66 schools were opened in minority concentrated areas. The study also says that MSDP funds were used to build schools and hostels with hardly any minority population. The idea of “minority appeasement”, not only has affected the way the government has imagined and planned the schemes but the accusation has also affected implementation of these schemes on the ground.
 
“Officials we spoke to shared in private that they were actively discouraged to map and target their plans to Muslim settlements. There appears at all levels reluctance, once again, to boldly target services to this disadvantaged community, for fear again of accusations of ‘appeasement”, says the study. The study has exposed the minuscule less than 3% of the wage and self-employment programmes have reached Muslims as opposed to 15% being earmarked for them. For instance in 24 Parganas of West Bengal, only 2.2% minority BPL households have been covered by the self-employment SGSY scheme, and less that 1% of the households have actually received bank credit. In the year 2010, right up to November, not a single Muslim SHG received bank credit.
 
The study also talks about the institutional errors in the implementation of these schemes like, “In districts, we encountered officials who were de-motivated, untrained and often carried mainstream prejudices against Muslim people. They prepare plans without ever consulting the intended recipients: Muslim youth, women and impoverished workers. In state capitals, minority departments were typically marginalized, under-resourced and under-staffed,” says the report.
 
– twocircles

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