The UPA government's minority welfare agenda, one of its prime planks, could be floundering due to inadequate outreach and discrimination, the very drawbacks it aims to plug.
Evidence from two new reports indicate despite funneling over Rs 7,000 crore for multi-pronged plans in the past five years, discrimination could still be holding back socio-economic recovery of over 150-million Muslims.One of these reports, a four-year study by the Centre for Equity Studies (CES), even blames the UPA government for lacking "political courage" to directly address Muslims for fear of being criticised.
Separately, the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) recently found that a flagship scheme to spruce up services and infrastructure were not benefiting their targeted community because investments were being made in areas outside Muslim habitats.
In a recent probe on police excesses, the minority panel stumbled upon 10 schools either built or upgraded for granting Muslims access to education, but functioning in areas with few minority students in Bihar's Araria district — among the 90 minority districts targeted nationally. Likewise, over Rs 100 crore were spent to create angawadi centres to service disadvantaged Muslims, but all of these were in areas with scant minority population.
Alarmed, the government now intends to shift to identifying minority-populated blocks, rather than districts, minority affairs minister Salman Khurshid said.
The CES study by Harsh Mander, among others, analysed conditions in three Muslim-majority districts — Darbhanga in Bihar, 24 Parganas in West Bengal and Mewat in Haryana. It found apart from failing to “identify or address” the actual obstacles, the “scale” of intervention was “too small”.
Those behind implementing the plans “lack conviction …to directly battle the socio-economic structural discrimination faced by Muslims”, the report states.