Finance minister P Chidambaram reached out to minorities by increasing the allocation to the minority affairs ministry by 12% to Rs. 3,511 crore and listed the steps the UPA had taken to improve their condition. He also increased the allocation for scheduled castes and tribals to Rs. 41,561 crore and Rs. 24,598 crore, respectively.
The Sachar panel, set up by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to probe disadvantages faced by Muslims, had pointed out in its report that a vast majority of Muslims were self-employed and that access to credit at reasonable rates was a major factor holding back their businesses.
Chidambaram listed some of the steps the UPA government had taken in this regard.
“Ten years ago, the minorities had 1.4 million bank accounts in 121 districts of India where there is a concentration of minorities. At the end of March 2013, they had 43,52,000 accounts and the volume of lending had soared from Rs. 4,000 crore in 2004-05 to Rs. 66,500 crore. Loans to minority communities in the whole country stood at Rs. 2,11,451 crore at the end of December 2013,” he said.
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Minority welfare has been one of the cornerstones of the UPA’s agenda of inclusive growth and the UPA took some unprecedented steps to bring development to disadvantaged sections, especially Muslims, India’s largest minority.
According to Justice Sachar’s findings, Muslims held fewer than 5% of government posts and accounted for only 4% of undergraduates. Their poverty rates were found to be only slightly better than low-caste Hindus, such as Dalits, while their literacy rate ranked well below the national average.
A national scholarship scheme for minorities had been a resounding success.
The government had also made a key change in how minority schemes were administered by target village blocks, not districts, as the basic jurisdiction for welfare schemes, he said.
The government recently launched a new state-run financial corporation called “Nawadco” to manage wakf properties. A wakf is an Islamic endowment, usually in the form of prime real estate, which if commercial developed, could potentially generate Rs. 12,000 core in annual revenue.
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