The 12th five-year Plan has suggested specific programmes, including increased spending on minority welfare, to reverse discrimination felt by Muslims, a key issue hindering social equity in India’s growth.
The 12th Plan aims to groom 20,000 young Muslim men and women nationally who should be able to “respond to both perceptions as well as actual instances of alienation and hostility” faced by the community.
The Plan document states that its broad objective for 2012-2017 is to quicken inclusive growth, thereby directly impacting Muslims, the country’s largest and the most disadvantaged minority.
Although Muslims make up about 13% of the total population, their huge absolute numbers -- about 150 million -- mean that the community’s high poverty levels and low literacy achievements significantly pull down overall human development indicators, despite an economic boom.
According to round 3 of the government’s family health survey, births to Muslim mothers (33%) are much less likely to take place in an equipped medical facility and they are least likely to take iron and folic acid tablets during pregnancy. .
Heeding to an earlier request by cross-party Muslim MPs, the government will now make a key change in the way minority schemes are administered, by targeting village blocks, not districts, as the basic unit for welfare schemes.
Moreover, any district with a minority population of 15% shall now be eligible to be counted as a minority concentrated district for support, down from 25% earlier.
The highlight of the 12th Plan is “bold and creative affirmative action” aimed at specific communities directly, indicating that backwardness among India’s religious minorities has gained legitimacy in the political discourse.
Improving minority representation in the top bureaucracy is another expected step.