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Seeing is believing

If elections are what it takes for a government to implement policies that will lead to the uplift of the Muslim community, then surely, vote-bank politics has its virtues after all.

india Updated: Sep 04, 2007 00:28 IST

The UPA government’s latest announcement that it will soon unveil in Parliament its plan of action on the Sachar Committee report has elicited predictable responses. Prime among them is that this is a sure sign that the government is preparing for mid-term polls. If elections are what it takes for a government to implement policies that will lead to the uplift of the Muslim community, then surely, vote-bank politics has its virtues after all. The committee, formed in March 2005 and headed by Justice Rajinder Sachar, prepared its report in November 2006 and presented it to Parliament the same month. What it did was to empirically confirm something that has been apocryphal knowledge for a while now: that Muslims in India are socio-economically backward as a group and require ‘mainstream-ising’. The report also pointed to something that was less well-known: that the status of Indian Muslims is below that of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

While sections of the political firmament have already pounced on the announcement as ‘pre-poll appeasement’, others have shown a more rational scepticism towards the UPA’s ‘good’ intentions. The Sachar committee report had concluded that Muslims are a deprived lot and has suggested reservation for the most backward among the community. It has also called for the creation of an Equal Opportunity Commission (EOC) and a nomination procedure for their political involvement at the grassroots level. Critics sceptical of the government’s plans to utilise the report’s findings point to the recent past. Budgetary allocations made for minorities, they point out, had been reduced in 2007, even after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh talked about the fruits of the nation’s wealth-creation being ‘prioritised’ towards the uplift of the ‘backward’ Muslim community.

This is not an empty critique. Talking about the need to bring India’s Muslims up the socio-economic ladder is one thing. To actually frame policies and carry them through quite another. And this is where political will makes its phantom-like appearance. Never mind the timing of Minority Affairs Minister A.R. Antulay and Parliamentary Affairs Minister P.R. Dasmunsi’s incremental announcements. There have been simply too many instances of too many governments making ‘We care, we really do’ statements with little to show for them. Mr Singh’s government doesn’t deserve such cynicism, but the best of intentions is never good enough.