How the NDA is systematically denying minorities their rights
In the last three years, despite constitutional and statutory guarantees, prejudice and discrimination against minorities has gone up. Driven by MS Golwalkar, the chief ideologue of the Sangh parivar, regressive elements antithetical to the idea of India have argued that non-Hindus in India can “claim nothing, deserve no privileges...not even citizen’s rights”. Consequently, the legal guarantees have been systematically undermined.
This exclusionary ideology is also visible in governance. For example, consider how the current dispensation has methodically diluted all policies related to the welfare of minorities. For example, the NDA government has starved the Prime Minister’s 15 Point Programme (PM-15PP), which was specifically designed to bridge the development gap between minorities and the rest of society by earmarking public resources equitably, of funds.
First, the allocations for minority welfare have consistently declined since the time the BJP assumed office. It has dropped from Rs. 27, 172 crore in 2012-13 to Rs 9,930 in 2016-17. In percentage terms, it has come down from 1.93% of the budget (2012-13) to 0.50% in 2016-17.
The BJP has also misused an unforeseen shortcoming in the PM-15PP’s design, which unlike the Scheduled Caste Sub Plan and Tribal Sub Plan, did not explicitly mandate that a percentage of the plan component of the budget be earmarked for minorities in proportion to their population (the policy says that “a certain percentage of the physical and financial targets will be earmarked for poor beneficiaries from minority communities”). Consequently, the NDA has not guaranteed targeted and quantifiable interventions in the 22 centrally sponsored schemes under the PM-15PP.
Second, consider the Multi-Sectoral Development Programme (MSDP), which is aimed at enhancing access to education, healthcare, electricity, drinking water, sanitation and employment. It is being implemented in 90 districts with high concentration of minorities.
Unfortunately, it is excluding 70% of the minority communities because of the manner in which it is being implemented. This is because the MSDP makes inclusion in the Below Poverty Line (BPL) list a prerequisite for availing of any benefits/services. It has been well documented that a majority of Muslims are not counted in the BPL lists because of various reasons. Consequently, these funds are either diverted to non-minority beneficiaries or remain unutilised.
Responding to a question in Parliament (unstarred question number 546, Lok Sabha, December 2, 2015), the Union government said that in 2014-15, 4,70,165 projects were sanctioned for minority development but none were completed. In contrast, in 2013-14, when the UPA was in power, 52,698 projects were sanctioned and 16,967 were completed.
As the experience of the last three years has shown, weaknesses in policy design are being cynically exploited by the State to deny minorities their due. Even though it has nominally enhanced allocations for welfare schemes meant for minority development, the NDA has insidiously subverted them by deliberately (mis)using some of the lacunae.
In order to check this, and to address the development deficits and aspirations of minority communities in a targeted manner, it is imperative that the existing guidelines be made more comprehensive and watertight.
This can be done if recommendations of the National Advisory Council and the Steering Committee on Empowerment of Minorities for the XIIth Plan are followed. It would be expedient to mandatorily earmark 14% of the fiscal and physical outlays in the schemes under the PM15-PP for minorities (following the principle public resources must be earmarked in proportion to the share of minorities in the total population).
In addition, to ensure proper monitoring of these schemes, a separate budget statement with details of targeted and non-targeted expenditure must be detailed. Finally, to accelerate development of minorities, the government must significantly raise the budget (perhaps even threefold) from the current Rs 4195.48 crore.
The government needs to be firmly committed to extending equitable access to opportunities to all citizens. Keeping the historical and contemporary deprivations suffered by minority communities, it is imperative that the special provisions meant for their empowerment be secured and appropriately enhanced. It is only then that the promise of this nation can be shared by all.
K Raju is chairperson of the Congress’ scheduled castes department and Pushparaj Deshpande is an analyst with the party.
The views expressed are personal