Minority affairs minister Najma Heptullah, the senior-most members of the newly sworn-in council of ministers, has said the minorities needed a “level playing field” in society, but reservation was not the answer.
“The minorities are more backward than other backward (groups). But their development needs are the same as that of the majority (communities). Therefore, they need a level playing field,” Heptullah told HT.
Heptullah, the grand-niece of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, a prominent freedom fighter who became the country’s first education minister, said the new government would like to continue many existing welfare programmes for minorities as possible, but virtually ruled out reservation, a dogmatic demand of Muslims, India’s largest minority community.
“Reservation on the basis of religion is not permissible under the Constitution. Nor is it the solution. It kills the spirit of competition,” she said.
Azad is known for his contribution in setting up key academic institutions such as the University Grants Commission, Sangeet Natak Akademi and the elite Indian Institutes of Technology. Heptullah said education was still one of the main needs of the community.
She however said these were her preliminary views and her ministry would formulate a policy of robust development of the minorities once she is able to sit down with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and discuss matters pertaining to her ministry.
The previous UPA government had announced a share for disadvantaged Muslims in jobs and education within the larger quota for Other Backward Classes, but could not implement it because of legal hurdles. The matter is now before the Supreme Court.