Take Concrete Steps to Implement Sachar Committee Recommendations
The communal and divisive approach adopted by the BJP and the Sangh Parivar on the Sachar Committee recommendations is highly condemnable. The Sachar Report has blown the myth of minority appeasement by presenting scientifically collated evidence, which shows that minority communities, especially Muslims, face deprivation and discrimination in myriad forms. Despite this, the BJP continues to shamelessly level the minority appeasement charge and is seeking to destabilize social harmony by opposing the implementation of the Sachar Committee recommendations. CPI (M) strongly condemns this attempt to prevent social justice and affirmative action for the minorities. We call upon the UPA Government to initiate urgent and concrete steps to implement the Sachar Committee recommendations.
It is unfortunate that the “Follow-up Action on the Recommendations of the Sachar Committee” placed in Parliament on 31st August 2007 by the Minister of Minority Affairs, falls far short of the requirements. Neither have any time frame been set for the implementation of the programmes announced in the ‘follow-up action’ nor any indication of specific financial allocations to implement the programmes. Moreover, there are serious omissions in the ‘follow-up action’. For instance, there is no mention of steps being taken to ensure justice to victims of communal violence. Important steps like land reforms and distribution of land and house sites to the landless and homeless within minorities and setting up of a special mechanism for monitoring the inclusion of OBC Muslims in the State wise OBC lists and OBC reserved quotas also find no mention. The Government has also not responded to the demand for extending reservation to dalit Muslims and dalit Christians made by the CPI (M) as well as other parties and organizations. The recommendations of the Ranganath Mishra Commission set up to examine the question of reservation for dalits within the Muslim and Christian communities have not been made public.
This approach belies the UPA Government’s commitment to ensure justice for the minorities. Between the BJP’s vicious anti-minority campaign and the UPA Government’s tokenism, the Sachar Committee recommendations are getting jettisoned. A closer look at two crucial areas, namely education and access to credit, exposes the lack of political will displayed so far by the UPA Government in implementing the recommendations of the Sachar Committee.
Why has the Government totally ignored the Action Plan prepared by the High-level Committee under MOS HRD Shri M.A.A. Fatmi on matters concerning education contained in the Sachar Committee recommendations?
v This high-level committee submitted its proposed action plan on 31st January 2007. The action plan included, among other things, launching a focussed literacy campaigns in the Minority Concentration Districts (MCDs), building Jana Shikshan Sansthans (adult education and vocational training institutes) in all MCDs, building one Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya (KGBV) in each of the Minority Concentrated Blocks and expanding the modernization scheme for Madarsas.
v Specific financial requirements for implementing the action plan during the Eleventh Five Year Plan was also suggested by the high-level committee, totaling Rs. 5434.40 crores (See Annex A). However, these recommendations made in January 2007 were ignored in Budget 2007-08, which was the first Budget of the Eleventh Plan.
v For example, whereas the financial requirement for Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas was stated as Rs. 230 crores for the Plan period, no allocations were made for KGBVs in Budget 2007-08. Similarly, the additional allocation of Rs. 1500 crores required for the focussed literacy campaign and Jana Shikshan Sansthans in MCDs for the Plan period was ignored. The total outlay for literacy and adult education was increased in Budget 2007-08 only by around Rs. 163 crore over last year, the allocation for MCDs being a fraction of the amount. Shockingly, as against the additional requirement of Rs. 625 crores for the Madarsa modernization programme cited by the high-level committee, the allocation in Budget 2007-08 was increased by only Rs. 4.50 crore over last year. These meagre allocations show that the Government has been unwilling to follow the action plan drawn up by its own high-level committee on education.
Why is the Government dragging its feet in giving scholarships to students from minority communities, even after announcing it in the Budget?
v In Budget 2006-07 the Finance Minister announced: “Merit-cum-means based scholarships encourage students to pursue higher studies. Government will finance 20,000 such scholarships to students belonging to the minority communities. Once the scheme is finalized in 2006-07, I intend to allocate the necessary funds.” This promise was not implemented by the Government. In reply to Rajya Sabha question # 4197 dated 14th May 2007, the Minority Affairs Minister said that the budget announcement had not been implemented (See Annex B).
v It was further announced by the Finance Minister in Budget 2007-08: “Three scholarship programmes are being implemented for students belonging to minority communities. I propose to make the following allocations: Pre-matric scholarships Rs.72 crore, Post-matric scholarships Rs.90 crore, Merit-cum-Means scholarships at graduate and post-graduate levels Rs.48.60 crore.” The ‘follow-up action’ of the Minority Affairs Minister, tabled six months after the Budget was placed, states that the 20,000 Merit-cum-Means “has been approved” and the pre-matric and post-matric scholarship scheme “will be introduced shortly”. Once again, no financial allocation has been mentioned in this regard. It is clear that after reneging on the budget commitment of providing scholarships to students belonging to minority communities made last year, the Government is once again dragging its feet in implementing the promise made in this year’s budget.
Access to Credit
Why is the commitment made by the Prime Minister to ensure 15% of priority sector lending for minority communities being ignored by other arms of the Government?
v Since a very large section of the Muslim community is self-employed, ensuring access to credit at low rates of interest is vital to improving their conditions of livelihood. Loans to minority communities as a percentage of total priority sector loans had decreased from 9.62 % in March 2002 to 9.35 % in March 2006. In keeping with the recommendation of the Sachar Committee, the Prime Minister’s 15 point programme for the welfare of the minorities, which was approved by the Cabinet in June 2006, state: “It will be ensured that an appropriate percentage of the priority sector lending in all categories is targeted for the minority communities.”
v There has been a lot of resistance to specifying the ‘appropriate’ percentage of priority sector loans to be targeted for the minority communities. Between July and December 2006, as many as eight letters were written to the Finance Minister from the PMO and the Minority Affairs Ministry, on the need to set a target of 15% of priority sector loans for minorities (See Annex C), but no instructions were issued by the Finance Ministry in this regard. It was only in January 2007, that the Finance Minister admitted that a 15 % target has indeed been set by the Government. The ‘follow-up action’ of the Minority Affairs Ministry, however, dilutes that commitment when it states: “Efforts will be made for stepping up priority sector lending to minorities from the present level to 15% over a period of three years.”
v Whether the Government would meet even this diluted commitment is unclear. One day before the Minority Affairs Minister tabled the ‘follow-up action’ in Parliament, the Reserve Bank of India released its Annual Report, 2006-07. A relevant section of the report states: “With a view to according priority to the most needy, a special drive has been initiated by the Regional Offices of the Reserve Bank for 100 per cent financial inclusion in the districts with maximum concentration of SCs, STs and minorities. For this purpose, the Regional Offices have been advised to use a list of 121 minority concentrated districts forwarded by the Ministry of Finance, Government of India together with Census/other data on SCs/STs and minorities. The Reserve Bank has so far identified eight such districts (four in Maharashtra, three in Tamilnadu and one in Haryana) for 100 per cent financial inclusion.” (See Annex D)
v The ‘follow-up action’ of the Minority Affairs Minister mentions 90 Minority Concentration Districts (MCDs). While the RBI Annual Report cites a list of 121 MCDs prepared by the Finance Ministry, the basis for its identifying only 8 districts out of that 121 is not at all clear. Nor is their any mention of the target of 15 % of priority sector loans to minority communities in the RBI Annual Report.
On the question of ensuring justice for the victims of communal riots, the record of the UPA Government is extremely disappointing. The Central Government did not accept the demand for a CBI inquiry into the major cases of killings during the Gujarat riots of 2002. The culprits of Babri Masjid demolition are yet to be punished. Moreover, the Congress led Government in Maharashtra continues to defy the nationwide demand for action on the Srikrishna Commission Report on the Bombay riots that named the political leaders and police officials who had led and connived in the killing of over 800 Muslims. The Sachar Committee had observed: “The lackadaisical attitude of the government and the political mileage sought whenever communal riots occur has been very painful for the Community…The governmental inaction in bringing to book the perpetrators of communal violence has been a sore point.” The UPA Government has so far not been able to bring any improvement in the situation.
Following an All India Convention held in Delhi in March 2007, the CPI (M) had submitted a Charter for the Advancement of the Muslim Community to the Prime Minister. A key demand in the Charter was to make a sub-plan for the minorities on the lines of the tribal sub-plan and the special component plan for the SCs. The Left Front Government in West Bengal has already made such a sub-plan for minorities, which was announced in the State Budget 2007-08. Unfortunately, the UPA Government has not accepted this demand so far. The CPI (M) is of the view that without a dedicated sub-plan for minorities along with allocation of adequate resources, the recommendations of the Sachar Committee cannot be implemented in a holistic manner.
BRINDA KARAT, Polit Bureau Member, CPI (M) & MP, Rajya Sabha MD. SALIM, Convenor, Committee on Minorities, CPI (M) & MP, Lok Sabha