Is the Government doing enough for Minority Rights? - Part I

Is the Government doing enough for Minority Rights? - Part I

The present article is the first article in a series of three articles in which we examine the available evidence on the patterns of minority participation in education and employment and try to understand as to whether the policies in place have done enough to increase that participation. We will evaluate the standing of the minority communities in the society in terms of the general development indicators and how they have fared over the years. Further, we will present an overall scenario of the budgetary allocation for minority welfare over the years and how it has been able to address the concerns associated with the welfare of the minorities.

 

In this year’s budget speech, the Finance Minister did not make a mention of the condition of the minorities and the steps taken to uplift the downtrodden communities. However, President Ramnath Kovind, in his joint address to Parliament on day one of the budget session, said that “Government is committed to “Empowerment and not Appeasement”, and my Government is making intensive efforts for economic, social and educational empowerment of the minorities”.   

The term ‘minority’ has not been defined in the Constitution or in any other enactment. However, the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations’ Organisation in 1950 has defined minority to include, “only those non-dominant groups in a population which possess and wish to preserve suitable ethnic, religious and linguistic traditions or characteristics markedly different from the rest of the population”.

The Sub-Reporter of the Sub-Commission on prevention of discrimination and protection of minorities defined minority as follows: “An ethnic, religious, or linguistic minority is a group numerically smaller than the rest of the population of the State to which it belongs and possessing cultural, physical and historical characteristics, religion or a language different from those of the rest of the population”.  Under Section 2(c) of the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992, six religious communities viz Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs, Zoroastrians (Parsis) and Jains have been identified as minority communities. While this article does talk about development of all minorities, Muslims being the largest minority group and having particularly skewed development indicators, will find a special mention in this article.

In India, minority populations have continued to fare badly in terms of various development indicators, despite government assistance.  According to Sachar committee report, tabled in Parliament on November 30, 2006, growth rate among all groups of Muslims had been on a constant decline between 1991 and 2001, the literacy rate among Muslims in 2001 was 59.1% below the national average (64.8%) with the gap even more prominent in urban areas. 3 Further, according to the more recent 2011 consensus, 42.7% Muslims in India are illiterate, the highest literacy for any single religious community and higher than the national illiteracy rate of 36.9%. The consensus also revealed that literacy rates are highest among Jains, at 84.7%, followed by Christians (74.3%), Buddhists (71.8%) and Sikhs (67.5%). The committee also found out that only 4% of Muslims were graduates or held diplomas with significant increase in gap as the level of education increased. When it came to employment, worker population ratios for Muslims were significantly lower than for all minority groups in rural areas and only marginally lower in urban areas. Part of the reason for such low ratio was because of lower participation of Muslim women in any economic activity and high share of Muslim workers engaged in self-employment activity. In the domain of access to social and physical infrastructure, the committee found out that compared to Muslim majority areas, areas with less concentration of Muslims had better roads, local bus-stops, pucca houses, sewage and drainage and water supply facilities. Further, the report also noted marked differences between North Indian Muslims and their South Indian counterparts. Muslims had progressed in those parts of South India where they had been the beneficiaries of reservation for many years.

Similarly, the Ranganath Commission report, which was submitted to the Government on May 21, 2007, noted that the minorities, especially Muslims, are very much under-represented and sometimes wholly unrepresented in government jobs. 4 The study further found out that the major problem related to the backward sections among Sikhs was lack of income opportunities and non-upgradation of their traditional skills. Also, the study pointed out that religious minorities in general and Muslims and Buddhist in particular are at the backbench with respect to higher level of educational attainment. The aim of the Commission was to identify socially, economically and backward classes among religious and linguistic minorities and suggesting measures of welfare for minorities including reservation. The Commission in its report recommended 10% reservation for Muslims and 5% for other minorities in government jobs and favoured Scheduled Caste status for Dalits in all religions. The Commission also recommended delinking of Scheduled Caste status from religion and abrogation of the 1950 Scheduled Caste Order which "still excludes Muslims, Christians, Jains and Parsis from the SC net.” In other words, the Commission stressed that dalits or downtrodden castes of Muslim, Christian, Jain and Parsi origin should be given the SC status by way of amendment of Constitution (Article -341) and Constitution (SC) order, 1950. The Commission stated that the dalits should be free to choose their religion without the fear of losing SC status.

 

However, even after six and a half decades of independence, thirteen years of Sachar Committee report and twelve years of Ranganath Commission report, minorities in India suffer from social stigma, fear of violence, spatial segregation and even lack of basic access to government jobs.

Deprivation of beneficiary job opportunities and quality education has led to the members of some of these communities to struggle for a minimum standard of living. Abject poverty characterizes the members of some of these communities.

The article reviews the available evidence on the patterns of minority participation in education and employment and try to understand as to whether the policies in place have done enough to increase that participation.

For Minority welfare, under the ambit of education, skill development and subsequent employment of minorities and infrastructure development the government carries out various programmes. For education support, the Ministry is carrying out various schemes for educational empowerment in the form of scholarships, financial assistance schemes, and classroom programmes. For employment support, the Ministry is carrying out various skill development initiatives, such as Seekho aur Kamao, Nai Manzil and Upgrading the Skills and Training in Traditional Arts/ Crafts for development (USTTAD). Under “infrastructure support” the government implements development work by way of the Multi-Sectoral Development Program (MSDP). In the subsequent articles in this series, we will analyze the present budget to see how it is addressing the aforementioned concerns associated with the welfare of Minorities. With the help of this information, we’ll try to come up with a conclusion that will include recommendations that are not only appreciative of the concerns from all angles but are also feasible politically.

The set of data below looks at Budgetary allocation (in crores) for the last few years, along with revised estimates (revisions to the allocated budget are suggested after a mid-year review of the progress made with the allocated budget) and actual expenditure for the ministry of minority affairs as a whole:

 

Table showing Budgetary Allocations and Expenditure for Ministry of Minority Affairs

Year

Allocation

R.E.

Expenditure

2014-15

3734.01

3165

3088.57

2015-16

3738.11

3735.98

3654.85

2016-17

3827.25

3827.24

3049.15

2017-18

4195.48

4195.48

2793.52 (As on 20th Feb, 2018)

2018-19

4700

Not Available

Not Available


Although the budget allocation for Ministry of Minority Affairs (MoMA) has increased by 12%, the fund utilization has declined from 97.8% in 2015-2016 to 74% in 2017-18. However, for the purpose of bringing more clarity to the overall picture let us break down the overall allocation to scheme-wise allocation for certain major schemes in the education, skill development and employment and infrastructure development.

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Tags: Minority Rights, Budget, Welfare Schemes

Maansi Verma