Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s plans for the welfare of minority communities seem to have hit a roadblock in the Union Ministry of Finance.
After the prime minister announced a 15-point programme for minority welfare in June last year, the Cabinet had approved nine priority schemes under six ministries where 15 per cent of the funds would have to be earmarked for the welfare of Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Parsis and Buddhists.
More than half-a-year later, Finance Ministry is the only ministry yet to respond and earmark targets under the scheme, `Enhanced credit support for economic activities’ for priority sector lending. All the other six ministries have sent their earmarked targets for minority welfare to the Ministry of Minority Welfare. The prime minister has also approved the targets.
In a letter written on January 4 to CPIM politburo member, Brinda Karat, Finance Minister P Chidambaram had said that only after receiving an earlier letter from her, did he ask for the related file to be put up to him. He also mentioned that the Reserve Bank of India was advised on October 19 to include a new category "minority communities in paragraph 2.2 (ii) of Section II of the Master circular dated 3rd July 2006."
Reliable sources in the government said that there was no need to do that as the RBI already has data relating to credit lending to minority communities. "In an earlier circular (September 29, 2004)), RBI gave details about credit facilities extended to the minority religions. The circular gives data for four years from 2002 to 2005. The data is from both public and private banks," sources said.
In the circular – which is called the Master Cirular for Priority Sector Lending Credit Facilities to Minority Communities - RBI also talks about ensuring "smooth flow of bank credit to the minority communities through the various Government sponsored programmes as indicated by the government."
It also mentions that the RBI "monitors the credit flow to minorities by the receipt of data in respect of priority sector advances granted to the members of the minority communities by the scheduled commercial banks which is being collated by the Reserve Bank on half yearly basis from all scheduled commercial banks."
Sources added that it is also difficult to imagine that the Finance Ministry was not aware about the programme as detailed instructions were sent to all the six ministries in October. "They had of course been informed earlier as well," sources said.
BK Chauhan, deputy director general, Finance Ministry, said the ministry is not opposed to the 15-point programme. On the contrary, it is very positive about it. "We have written to RBI and the Indian Banks Association and have also met them on January 12. Details and procedures are being worked out," Chauhan said.