Welfare of minorities received a major boost on Friday when the Union Budget presented by Finance minister P Chidambaram proposed doubling the allocation for the ministry of minority affairs.
Chidambaram has proposed doubling the funds placed at the disposal of the ministry to implement the Rajindar Sachar committee recommendations, earmarking Rs 1,000 crore as against Rs 500 crore the previous year.
Officials said the hike in allocation was necessitated as this would be the first year when all the schemes drawn up in response to the Sachar panel’s findings would be implemented from the beginning of the financial year.
“It is good that for the first time in independent India, we have this kind of allocation for the minority community. Earlier, such allocations were only for weaker sections inclusive of women, scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and backward classes. The provision of religious minority has been invoked for the first time, said T K Oomen, who was a member of the high-level Sachar committee tasked to report on the condition of the Muslims, the largest religious minority that had been left out of the development paradigm.
A multi-sectoral development plan for each of the 90 minority concentration districts has been drawn up a cost of Rs 3,780 crore.
The allocation in 2008-09 will be Rs 540 crore. A pre-matric scholarship scheme with an allocation of Rs 80 crore, a provision of Rs 45.45 crore for modernising madrasa education, are some of the other schemes announced by Chidambaram.
A total of 256 branches of public sector banks have been opened this year until December 2007 in districts with substantial minority population, he said, pointing that 288 more branches would be opened by March 2008.