Fact-Check: Did Manmohan Singh advocate 'first right' to resources for Muslims as claimed by PM Modi? | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Fact-Check: Did Manmohan Singh advocate 'first right' to resources for Muslims as claimed by PM Modi?

ByThe Quint
Apr 22, 2024 07:38 PM IST

PM Modi cited Manmohan Singh's speech to claim the former prime minister said Muslims have the first claim to the nation's resources.

Speaking at a public event in Rajasthan's Banswara on 21 April, Prime Minister Narendra Modi campaigned for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), targeting the Congress party's manifesto and past policies.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Rajasthan's Banswara.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Rajasthan's Banswara.

In his speech, he said that when Congress was in power, "they said that Muslim's had the 'first right' to the nation's wealth. This means, they will gather all the wealth and distribute it among whom? Whoever has more children. They will distribute it among infiltrators. Should your hard-earned wealth be given to infiltrators? Do you accept this?"

"This is what the Congress manifesto says," he claimed, "They will take stock of the gold that (our) mothers and sisters have, they will count and assess it, and then they will distribute that wealth, and they will give it to those people that Dr Manmohan Singh's government had said – that Muslims have the first right to the nation's wealth."

The part of the speech where PM Modi can be heard making this statement starts at the 28:45-minute mark into this video.

In this report, we take a look at two claims that PM Modi makes with this statement.

  1. Did former PM Dr Manmohan Singh say that Muslims have the first claim to the nation's wealth?
  2. Does the Congress 2024 manifesto talk about surveying and redistributing wealth and/or gold? Will the party give this redistributed wealth to those with more children?

1. Former PM Manmohan Singh's Statement on 'First Right to Resources'

Using keywords such as 'PM Manmohan Singh First Claim on Resources', we looked for more information regarding this statement.

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  • This led us to an article by The Times of India, published on 9 December 2006, which carried a similar headline.
  • The report mentioned that in Singh's speech, he said that “plans for minorities, especially Muslims, must have the first claim on resources so that the benefits of development reach them equitably.”

The report was published in December 2006.(Times of India/Screenshot)
The report was published in December 2006.(Times of India/Screenshot)
  • It also stated that the former prime minister had said this during the 52nd meeting of the National Development Council.
  • The search also led us to an archived version of a press release carrying a clarification issued by the PMO, which mentioned that former PM Singh's statement had been deliberately and mischievously misinterpreted, “fuelling a baseless controversy.”
  • It carried the transcribed version of a part of the former prime minister's speech, offering context to his statement.

The PMO had issued a clarification regarding the statement the next day. (PMO Archives/Altered by The Quint)
The PMO had issued a clarification regarding the statement the next day. (PMO Archives/Altered by The Quint)

While speaking about "collective priorities," former PM Singh had remarked on the need to develop several sectors – like agriculture, irrigation, water resources, health, education and others.

These sectors needed development, "along with programmes for the upliftment of SC/STs, other backward classes, minorities, and women and children. We will have to devise innovative plans to ensure that minorities, particularly the Muslim minority, are empowered to share equitably in the fruits of development. They must have the first claim on resources," Singh said.

With this, it becomes clear that former PM Singh had stressed on the importance of prioritising plans and schemes which work towards uplifting Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST), other backward classes, women, children, and minorities, and not just the Muslim community.

In his speech, former PM Singh said that these plans must be prioritised for resource allocation, "to share equitably in the fruits of development." He did not say that these groups had the "first right" to resources, as claimed.

The full text of his speech, dated 9 December 2006, can be accessed here.

2. The Congress Manifesto and Redistributing Wealth

The Congress' manifesto for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, called the 'Nyay Patra', the party makes several statements regarding income inequality, India's wealth, people belonging to economically weak sections, and the allocation of government land and resources.

We saw many points regarding empowering minorities, one of which mentioned ensuring that minorities received institutional credit from banks without discrimination.

The party's manifesto talks about ensuring loan to minorities without discrimination.(Congress Manifesto/Screenshot)
The party's manifesto talks about ensuring loan to minorities without discrimination.(Congress Manifesto/Screenshot)

In another point, the manifesto spoke about the Congress' plan to conduct a "nation-wide Socio-Economic and Caste Census to enumerate castes and sub-castes and their socio-economic conditions" to "strengthen the agenda" in order to take affirmative action for these groups, based on the data they obtain.

The party will conduct a census to gather data for affirmative action plans.(Congress Manifesto/Screenshot)
The party will conduct a census to gather data for affirmative action plans.(Congress Manifesto/Screenshot)

Similarly, the party also spoke about establishing an authority to monitor the distribution of government and surplus land among poor or economically weak sections of society.

This is the only mention about monitoring and distributing resources.(Congress Manifesto/Screenshot)
This is the only mention about monitoring and distributing resources.(Congress Manifesto/Screenshot)

The 2024 manifesto also mentions "first charge" on resources in a point under the 'Welfare' section.

It mentions that India has "nearly 22 crore people who are poor," and under their governance, "the welfare of the poor will be the first charge on all government resources."

The poor will have "first charge" on all government resources, the manifesto says.(Congress Manifesto/Screenshot)
The poor will have "first charge" on all government resources, the manifesto says.(Congress Manifesto/Screenshot)

Lastly, another point in the manifesto talks about "growing inequality of wealth and income," adding that the party will address this issue “through suitable changes in policies.”

This point addresses income inequality.(Congress Manifesto/Screenshot)
This point addresses income inequality.(Congress Manifesto/Screenshot)

The Congress' manifesto makes no statements regarding surveying gold owned by Indian women, nor does it say that this 'surveyed wealth' will be redistributed among "Muslims", "infiltrators", or "those with more children."

The Muslim Community and Population Boom

In the clip, PM Modi referred to an oft-repeated theory which talks about Muslim families producing more children. The theory alleges that Muslim women have higher fertility rates as compared to other women, which will cause a disturbance in the demographics on India.

Speaking to the Press Trust of India (PTI) on this topic in 2022, former Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) SY Quraishi said, ""Yes, Muslims have the lowest levels of family planning (FP) - only 45.3 percent. Their total fertility rate (TFR) is 2.61, which is the highest. But the fact that Hindus are not far behind, with second lowest FP at 54.4 percent, and second highest TFR of 2.13, is completely missed," PTI reported Quraishi as saying.

While the CEC was referring to data published in the fourth edition of the National Family Health Survey (NHFS), NFHS-5, conducted between 2019-21 shows a similar pattern

While it is true that Muslim women have higher total fertility rates (TFR) – which refers to the average number of children born to a woman in her life – of 2.36 children per woman, it is only marginally higher than that of Hindu women, which was at 1.94 children per woman.

The TFR for Muslim women is marginally higher than that of Hindu women.(NFHS-5/Altered by The Quint)
The TFR for Muslim women is marginally higher than that of Hindu women.(NFHS-5/Altered by The Quint)

The Quint has reached out to the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) for their inputs and will update this report as and when we receive any.

In a nutshell, former PM Singh had said that plans and schemes for SCs, STs, OBCs, women, children, and minorities would have the "first claim on resources." Additionally, the Congress' 2024 manifesto makes no specific mention of gold, or assessing and redistributing gold or wealth.

Disclaimer: This story was originally published by The Quint, and republished by HT Digital as part of the Shakti Collective.

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