Minority affairs minister Salman Khurshid has disputed a study by reputed academics, which found the UPA government’s minority welfare agenda hobbling due to inadequate determination, outreach and funds.
The study by the Centre for Equity Studies (CES), one of the first to assess the impact of the Centre’s schemes resulting from the Sachar recommendations, was presented before the National Advisory Council.
In a letter, NAC chairperson Sonia Gandhi then sought responses from Khurshid’s ministry. She also wrote to the Prime Minister.
In its response, not yet made public, Khurshid has said it was constitutionally not possible to directly address Muslims, a source said. The CES study had blamed the government for lacking ‘political courage’ to directly address Muslims for fear of being criticised.
The November 2006 Sachar report found Muslims suffered stark disadvantages, with literacy rates ranking well below the national average and poverty rates worse than Dalits.
“The study has several flaws… but that doesn’t mean the report isn’t useful,” Khurshid said.
Those who worked on the study include NAC member Harsh Mander, professor of political Science at the Jawaharlal Nehru University Zoya Hasan and a senior adviser in the Planning Commission, Rohini Nayyar among others.
“We completely stand by our report,” Mander said.
Khurshid and the Centre may have to contend with more studies on minorities. Abu Saleh Shariff, an economist who served on the high-level Sachar panel, is conducting another study under the aegis of the Institute for Objective Studies due to be out in October.
The CES study says: “To actually alter the destinies of millions of our people, who
face discrimination because of their socio-religious identities, would entail enormous budgetary resources and highly visible programmatic interventions, which openly target programme benefits to the Muslim community.”