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Monday, January 3, 2011

Not much action on minority affairs in 2010

The Minority Affairs Ministry intended to do a lot in 2010 but its initiatives failed to take off after being mired in controversies and due to rejections. Be it four new schemes, the ministry's ambitious plans to implement the existing Wakf Act or setting up of an Equal Opportunity Commission, none could see the light of the day, the only solace being some silver linings.

Planning Commission rejected all four new schemes announced by the ministry in 2010 which included strengthening of state Wakf boards, scheme for providing interest subsidy on educational loans for overseas studies to minority students, scheme for promotional activities for linguistic minorities and fertility support scheme for Parsis and Zoroastrians.
The fertility support scheme was rejected as the Planning Commission felt it would be akin to interfering in social issues.
The scheme was announced on the basis of findings in a study carried out by the National Commission of Minorities, which had felt that the community faced threat of extinction with its population dwindling alarmingly due to various factors including late marriages and even no marriage in many cases.
The biggest setback to the ministry was the virtual rejection of the concept of Equal Opportunity Commission by the government. A Group of Ministers decided that the proposed body's scope should be limited to just minorities.
Setting up of the EOC was a recommendation of the Sachar Committee and it aimed at ensuring equal opportunities to all disadvantaged by monitoring the diversity index of employers.
Minority Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid was against limiting the mandate and had even suggested at one point that the EOC can be located even in any other ministry but its mandate should remain comprehensive.
Yet another ambitious plan of the government -- to streamline the functioning of Wakf Boards by bringing in amendment in the existing Wakf Act could not take off after fierce opposition from certain sections including the All India Muslim Personal Law Board.
As the ministry faced tough opposition to its Wakf Act amendment plan, the Wakf (Amendment) Bill, 2010 was finally referred to a 13-member Select Committee of the Rajya Sabha for further consideration on August 31. The bill was earlier passed by Lok Sabha on May 7, 2010 and was sent to Rajya Sabha.
The proposed amendments to the Wakf Act, 1995, which were recommended by the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Wakf, in its third report were "duly considered in consultation with the concerned ministries and the state governments," the ministry claimed.
After the AIMPLB objected to the amendments especially the provision to make the registration of Wakf properties mandatory, Khurshid had held consultations with the Board members as well as its legal team to ally their "misgivings".
The silver lining, however, was a quantum jump in the budget allocation for the ministry -- Rs 2,600 crore in comparison to Rs 1,740 crore in 2009-10.
Another area of achievement for the ministry was its success in various scholarship schemes for minority students in which the government performance went beyond the targeted numbers.
The ministry insisted on schools giving scholarship to upload the details of beneficiaries on the ministry's website and it plans to begin online reimbursement in future to bring transparency in the system.

Under the Multi-sectoral Development Programme (MsDP), approvals were given for construction of 559 school buildings 6,679 additional class rooms, 37 hostels and 34 laboratories for primary, secondary, higher secondary and college education in 90 minority concentrated districts. With the corpus fund of Maulana Azad Education Fund now being enhanced to Rs 700 crore from the Rs 200 crore in 2006-07, the foundation sanctioned Grants-in-aid to 376 NGOs amounting to Rs 50.14 crore under its grants-in-aid scheme till October in 2010.
The Scheme for Leadership Development of Minority Women, which was transferred from the Ministry of Women and Child Development to Ministry of Minority Affairs, is under implementation for which the Centre has allocated a sum of Rs 15 crore last year for training 56,850 women.
A proposal for restructuring the National Minority Development and Finance Corporation is under consideration, which has disbursed an amount of Rs 1255.18 crore for assisting 3,21,898 beneficiaries under its Term Loan Scheme to minorities.
The government is also carrying out a scheme for computerisation of the records of the state Wakf boards, which aim at ensuring proper survey and cross checking of Wakf data from various computer data bases maintained at the state level.
Officials in the ministry said the thrust this year will be to bring in greater transparency in the ministry's work and the national level monitors appointed by the government to oversee the implementation of the schemes will play a crucial role in this regard in coming months.

Through the Lenses !

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