Keen to retain the goodwill of the minorities, who made a decisive shift towards the Congress after nearly two decades in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, the UPA government has announced a 74 per cent hike in the funds for projects of minorities welfare.
“The plan outlay of the Ministry of Minority Affairs has been enhanced from Rs 1,000 crore in 2008-09 to Rs 1,740 crore for 2009-10, registering an increase of 74 per cent,” union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said.
Amid thumping of desks from the treasury benches, Mukherjee announced doubling of the grant for the Maulana Azad Education Foundation, and Rs 25 crore to the Aligarh Muslim University for establishing its campuses at Murshidabad (West Bengal) and Malappuram (Kerala).
Mukherjee also announced schemes for providing quality madrassa education and for infrastructure development in these institutions.
Minority Affairs Minister Salman Khursheed welcomed the hefty increase in outlay. “It is very welcome, but should not be a surprise. The government is committed to the minorities development based on the recommendations of the Sachar Committee,” he said.
The outlay hike has generally been welcomed by the minority groups. But there were voices of caution as well.
“It is significant but not enough, since Rs 990 crore alone is for a single ongoing scheme called the Multi-Sectoral Development Programme for minorities in 110 selected minority concentration districts,” said professor Zoya Hasan of the Jawaharlal Nerhu University, and a former member of the National Commission for Minorities (NCM).
NCM vice-chairman Michael P. Pinto, welcomed the outlay hike. “It is a positive development. One in every five Indians belongs to minorities and we hope that the government focus remains on their economic upliftment,” he said.