Maulana Mohammad Fazlur Rahim Mujaddidi making presentation in the Planning Commission on January 14
The pathetic plight of Indian Muslims and their woes were narrated, discussed and debated before the Planning Commission members by more than two dozen community leaders, grassroot activists, academics, intellectuals and journalists drawn from all over the country to impress upon them the need to analyze the present condition of the community and suggested multi-level measures to improve it.
The National Consultation was held under ”Aspirations and Expectations of the Muslim Community from the Twelfth Five Year Plan (2012-2017)” at Yojana Bhavan, the headquarters of the Planning Commission of India in New Delhi, on January 14 last.
Led by the Planning Commission member Dr Syeda Saiyidain Hameed along with other members heard with rapt attention the delegates who pin-pointed the shortcomings and lacunae in the government’s policies and schemes coupled with discrimination and biases towards the Muslims resulting in the socio-economic conditions of the community tumbling down and getting buried fathom deep.
The other members of the Planning Commission who attended the consultation included B K Chaturvedi, IAS (Rtd); Saumitra Chaudhuri and Prof Abhijit Sen. Other officials present on the occasion were Ms Vandana Jena, Senior Adviser (WC/VAC/HH) and A Joshi, Director Finance Planning in the Ministry of Minority Affairs.
While giving specific suggestions the delegates highlighted Muslims’ feeling of insecurity, lack of education, inadequate health services and civic amenities, lack of women empowerment, non-grant of bank loans and financial assistance, lack of scientific temper, profiling, monitoring of government schemes etc. Jameatul Hidaya, Jaipur, and ANHAD (Act Now for Harmony and Democracy), did all the spade work to hold the said consultation with the Planning Commission. Shabnam Hashmi of ANHAD conducted the proceedings with aplomb.
In the end responding to the day-long deliberations Syeda Hameed said her endeavour would be, along with other members of the Planning Commission, to see that the schemes formulated to uplift the Muslim community from the morass of illiteracy and poverty get the maximum thrust. She said that the Planning Commission would try to ensure that the schemes are designed in a such manner that they are not derailed by the government of any “colour” that may come to power at the Centre later on.
Dr Syeda said that there was a wide spectrum of issues touched during the day which shall be encapsulated into action with schemes that are efficacious and serve the Muslim community. She moaned that Muslims at present feel alienated, besieged and marginalized. First the Approach Paper of the 12th Plan would be prepared which would reflect whatever has been discussed throughout the day, she added.
Dr M Hamidullah Bhat, Director, NCPUL (National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language), under the Ministry of Human Resource Development, said that the Approach Paper to be prepared by the Planning Commission should have: (i) Non-clubbing of Muslims data with other Minorities. It should say openly Muslim aggregated data; (ii) Not say Minority but Muslim Concentrated District and (iii) the funding of schemes should be 100 per cent by the Central Govt. – Not 2/3rd by the Centre and 1/3rd by the states.
Dr Bhat wanted that every Muslim artisan should be transformed into an entrepreneur so as to stand on his feet economically. He expressed grave concern over the shrinking base of Urdu language which is a colossal cultural loss. He wanted the state governments to be told to remain committed to three-language formula in school education.
Maulana Mohammed Fazlur Rahim Mujaddidi, Rector of Jamea-tul-Hidaya, Jaipur who was the main spirit behind the said consultation along with Ms Shabnam Hashmi, initiated the discussion with his Power Point presentation on the plight of Muslims vis-à-vis SC/ST and the Central Government’s dispensation towards it. He said the issues involved are: Backwardness of Muslims is area based; No infrastructural development in Ghettos; when Muslim Concentration increases, their performance decreases and Educational Backwardness the 2nd top most issue.
Maulana Mujaddidi, who is also a member of the Consultative Group for Empowerment of Minorities, Planning Commission of India, said after the sense of insecurity the community is frustrated and does not know when, how and whom to approach for redressal of their long unending grievances. The Government knows nothing about the community issues, requirements, priorities and temperament etc. The welfare schemes are creating further confusion and frustration in the community. The examples are Scholarship Scheme and MCDDP (Minority Concentrated District Development Plan).
The Maulana lamented that the 11th Five Year Plan has been a mixed reaction of expectations & set-backs. There were two flagship Welfare Schemes that were introduced in the 11th Plan viz. Scholarship and MCD (Minority Concentrated District Development Plan).
He said the requirement of Pre-Matric and Post-Matric Scholarships were: MMA (Ministry of Minority Affairs) target (2010-11) Total = 17,50,200 of which Pre-Matric = 14,58,500 and Post-Matric = 2,91,700. While estimated (2010) Muslim children under 6-14 years are 1.73 crores, which falls under the norms of MMA and 1.08 Crores falling under Poverty Line.
In the MCD (Minority Concentrated District) Development Plan the funds were utilized for district development of the selected districts (not to be focused on minorities). The major funds were utilized for IAY (Indira Awas Yojna), he pointed out.
With the help of graphs Maulana Mujaddidi, who is associated with a host of organizations in various capacity, exhibited the disparity in community development between Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes and Muslims. The allocation of budget to the communities’ development and subsequent increase in the years 2009 and 2010 are shown in the graphs as under :
Seeing the graph it can be grasped easily that even the increase in the budget allocations of SCs & STs is much more than that of the actual budget of the Minorities, he asserted.
As regards the expectations from the 12th Plan, the Maulana made a passionate plea to Increase the Welfare Budget at least 10 times. In the 11th Plan it was Rs. 7,000 crores which should now be enhanced to at least Rs. 70,000 crores. He pleaded to give top most priority to education with 75 per cent of total allocated budget. All Scholarship Scheme norms should be at par with SCs/STs Scholarship norms, he demanded. The Minority Ministry should concentrate on schemes related to minorities only, he urged.
He further demanded that in the next Plan the domain of New 15-point programme be increased with inclusion of urban welfare schemes also. He urged to ensure Minority Community participation in PPP projects; take-up MCT, (Minorities Concentrated Towns), in the 12th Plan; Cut-off population percentage should be reduced to 15 per cent from the present 25 per cent; to build two residential Schools in each MCT along with Hostel and involve the Muslim community at every level.
Meanwhile, the Maulana at the conclusion of the consultation while thanking the Planning Commission members for giving a patient hearing to the Muslims’ problems and their solutions broke down and in a choking voice said: ” I have not been able to sleep for three nights pondering over the community’s state to which it has been reduced in the last six decades after Independence”. The emotional words of the Maulana made tears well up in the eyes of many who were present on the occasion.
Continuing further the Maulana said: ” I humbly request you all to formulate welfare schemes with guidelines in such a manner that forces hostile to Muslims are not able to subvert these in any way in times to come”.
Noted social activist Dr Asghar Ali Engineer, who is chairman, Centre for Study of Society and Secularism, Mumbai, moaned that Equal Opportunity Commission which was envisaged in the Sachchar Committee Report has not seen the light of the day yet as no discussion on it has been held. He demanded constitution of the Commission soon as it will benefit Muslims and other marginalized communities too. He said that mostly Muslims are self-employed and are artisans in different trades. These artisans should be helped financially and provided trainings in newly opened ITIs and polytechnics to hone their skills.
He emphasized that three reports viz. Gopal Singh, Justice Sachchar Committee and that of Justice Ranganath Mishra should been seen together in totality to frame policies and schemes for the betterment of the Muslim community.
Another noted social activist Prof Ram Puniyani, an outspoken intellectual against communalism, said that delivery system is not very sensitive due to some deep-rooted misconception about Muslims with the result that the community is isolated and insulated from the mainstream. He wanted that the official machinery should be sensitized so that the underline current of biases which continue against Muslims do not come up at crunch time.
Gagan Sethi, a human rights activist, said the mind set of Muslims should be changed from the Minority community to the second largest Majority community. At the ethos level the Planning Commission should work for this. With reference to 2002 carnage, he pointed out that Gujarat is happening in every state, though it may not be violent at that scale but arm-twisting is going on away from the glare of media, government and others. If the Planning Commission does not intervene and save the situation then Muslims would be doomed, Sethi bemoaned
Zaheeruddin Ali Khan, a social activist and Managing Editor of “Siasat” newspaper, which is published simultaneously from Hyderabad and Bangalore, made a power point presentation highlighting the power of media in bring about a social change in Muslims in Hyderabad and its surroundings. He said “Siasat” was launched on August 15, 1949 – the third Independence Day with the primary objective of promoting nationalist spirit among the people and lessening the social, communal and political tensions so as to rebuild a healthy atmosphere enabling the people of Hyderabad to join the national mainstream and strive for national development.
Quoting a proverb “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”, he said: “ We did more than 30 different projects for the community development in a span of 13 years because we believe it’s our duty to give back something to the community, society & the nation. He said the simple process involved were :Identifying the needs; Creating awareness through our newspaper; Pooling of resources; Personal involvement; Making all arrangements; Voluntary participation and Feedback.
Zaheer said: “The difference we experienced for better life style was communal harmony, high earnings, more exposure, higher qualification, women empowerment, self-sufficiency, financially sound, positive mindset, better employment and last but not the least increase in confidence level. He questioned what does it all mean? This means Media is the biggest social change agent while yet a lot of change is needed; making Media mightier than money!
Azam Khan, another social activist from Hyderabad, made a fervent appeal that there should be no cap on the number of scholarships granted to minorities, especially Muslims by the Central Government. He said the Minority Scholarship Scheme will only be effective and result oriented, when its norms are at par with the scholarships for students belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, which are Centrally-sponsored and available throughout the year.
Meanwhile, at the outset Ms Shabnam Hashmi, while welcoming the delegates, she stressed the need to think much deeper and engage deeper with Muslims so that they do not feel besieged and second class citizens. The need of the hour is to reach out to the Muslim community so that they do not feel alienated and thereby they change their mind set to contribute their mite in the development of the country.
Ms Hashmi also emphasized that the government and other agencies dealing with Muslim affairs should not interact only with the conservative elements in the Muslim community, as has been the practice so far, but try to know the point of view of other sections of the community too as the community is not monolithic.
Ms Farah Naqvi, a social activist and National Advisory Council, (NAC), member, strongly pleaded for an anti-discriminatory legislation to help out not only Muslims but Dalits, OBCs and other marginalized people who are victims of discrimination and bias of the bureaucracy sitting in the government of the day apart from untouchability by certain political outfits. She was of the view that just constituting the Equal Opportunity Commission is not going to solve the problems of all the deprived people who stand on the same side.
Ms Naqvi said there is a yawning gap between the government and the Muslims due to hostile and biased system in the last 60 years of utter neglect. In the last four years, when Sachchar Committee Report came in 2006 and the same year the Union Ministry of Minority Affairs was formed, an effort is being made to undo the neglect and harm perpetrated on Muslims. This cannot be achieved in the traditional manner but there is an immediate need to move in “Fast Forward” mode and bridge the gap by officially having Muslims in the monitoring bodies for government welfare schemes.
S M Hilal, a social activist, questioned as to why Census 2001 report, the best available authentic data, was ignored and why then Baseline survey, which is just a sample survey, was conducted to implement the recommendations of the Sachchar Committee report. He suggested establishment of monitoring cell in every ministry. He opined that Information System is directly proportional to Monitoring System. If the data is correct and monitoring is proper then any deviation coming into play at the time of implementation of schemes is immediately checked and the interests of the intended beneficiaries are not hurt, he remarked.
Hilal pleaded for creating National Data Bank to collect data on various aspects through surveys on education, health, access to government, access to justice, situation of girls and women etc. He charged that the minority concentrated area are deliberately neglected by the implementing agencies. He said right from planning to implementation bureaucrats are involved. He alleged the community’s view-points and suggestions of Sachchar Committee were not taken into consideration before chalking out the MCD guidelines. Due to absence of minority community in the mechanism from planning to implementation, the community is helpless. In fact a strong political will at the top level is required for effective development of the schemes for Muslims. Therefore, the district development parameters of MCDs will never improve unless Muslim Minority concentrated areas under MCD are targeted for development, he maintained.
Gauhar Raza, a Delhi-based noted scientist, leading Urdu poet, social activist and documentary film maker, emphatically talked about developing scientific temperament in Muslim students who have the aptitude to excel provided they are given a chance with financial support. He lamented that Muslims being repeatedly abused by the media and the government leads to a situation where scientific temperament cannot germinate in them.
He said that there is an intense desire among Muslim students for science education in order to come into the mainstream but scientific temper is pushed away at the national level. He moaned that at the cost of Muslims other communities like Jains, Sikhs, Buddhists and Christians are thriving. He cautioned that if not checked then unemployed Muslim youths would be the highest by 2020 which would lead to all types of problems and violence cannot be ruled out.
He suggested that there is an urgent need to stem the rot by just not providing financial help but special efforts made to inculcate scientific temperament in Muslim students and inspire them so that they are able to realize their dreams. In this government’s big institutions pursuing scientific studies can play a stellar role which would go a long way in nation building, he quipped.
Ms. Tazaiyun Oomer, Member, Karnataka State Waqf Women’s Foundation, and Mrs. Ayesha Masood, Trustee of Isra Trust running Oasis International School, from Bangalore jointly made a Power Point presentation highlighting the woes of the Muslim community with many suggestions. They said low levels of education is impeding community development. However, there is a surge of interest in education within the community, especially in girls, by the women of the community.
The community needs more schools/ colleges to progress. There is lot of interest to build schools/ colleges also within the community for which two types of assistance is required: (i) Land is not available near minority concentration areas, and/ or is hugely expensive. So, the Government must support to provide land in minority concentrated areas at subsidized rates or grants to credible educational institutions trust to build schools and (ii) Moreover, a scheme supporting minority institutions providing policy level support, easy processes and specific concessions to cater to educational development needs of the community.
Another problem of the community, they pointed out, is the boarding & lodging of children from extremely poor families. Currently, many children from minority communities live in hostels, madrasas & orphanages. The financial support from government is meagre and the process is very difficult. The Planning Commission, they said, can initiate a scheme whereby a fixed amount, say Rs. 650 per month can be paid as partial subsidy towards the boarding and lodging of children living in these institutions. The payment can be made directly to body managing lodging facility based on number of beneficiaries.
On Women Empowerment front Ms Tazaiyun Oomer and Mrs. Ayesha Masood suggested that Microfinance helps reaching credit for household and micro industry. “To help the poor escape from money lenders, through our NGO, we are providing interest free micro-credit loans to help more than 250 self-employed women following “Grameen” model. The corpus has been raised through donations while no support from the government.
They emphasized that the Government can partner with credible NGOs to provide grants for capacity building of NGOs & Beneficiaries, provide interest free long-term loans to on-lend through micro-credit and the Government can start Women’s Minorities Federation of SHGs to help women mobilize, give training & be a channel of funds. They emphatically stressed to stop giving sewing machines to women and urged instead to distribute computers to them to make them self-reliant.
Ms Mantasha Bin Rashid from J & K, who is associated with ANHAD, explained through a Power Point presentation the current scenario in her state which is heart rending due to the ongoing conflict in the state. In the last two decades more than one lakh youth in the age group of 22-35 have been killed while the government accepts only 30-40,000 violent deaths have occurred. The conflict-related issues include rehabilitation of widows, half widows (whose husbands are missing) and orphans which are: a. Under NFBS (National Family Benefit Scheme) only a one-time grant of Rs. 10,000; b. Widow pension; c. There are no existing livelihood programmes for conflict victims, no programs for education of orphans and d. No monitoring programme.
Ms Mantasha said that due to an unending violence in the state there are high prevalence of mental ailments with just one un-upgraded government psychiatric hospital in the valley. There are no counseling centers in the state and there is high tendency of suicides (especially in females) and thousands of PSTD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) cases.
She said that there is no local Self-Government and as such : a. No Panchayati Raj elections for more than a decade now; b. The 73rd and 74th amendment are not incorporated in the state PRI Act; c. The superseding of Panchayat Bill (2005); d. There are no elected representatives in the District Planning and Development Boards and e. There is acute shortage of funds for development works at district and village level.
They stressed that there is immediate need of funds along with evaluation and accountability as there are huge losses in corporations like a. Small Scale Industries; b. Industrial Development Corporation; c. Road transport; d. Handicraft; e. Agro-based industries and f. JK Minerals Corporation.
There is very high prevalence of unemployment in the state as there are: (i) No industries/Service sector; No Tourism promotion; (ii). No entrepreneurship plans and small unit set-ups and (iii) There is total lack of awareness about the government’s existing schemes and their high manipulation.
The duo said that in order to uplift Kashmiri Muslims, who are plagued by despondency due to ongoing conflict in the region, there is a tremendous need for: a. Awareness; b. Capacity building; c. Strengthening SWC and SHRC; d. Expedite implementation of RTI; e. Surveys, data collection for conflict-hit victims f. Mobile schools for nomadic ST’S; g. Camps for legal literacy, right entitlement and h. Accountability in the grants spend under special package and PM’s plan.
Dr Manzoor Ahmad from Lucknow, while emphasizing to tag education with employment, suggested to build separate hostels for boys and girls on the lines of Ambedkar Hostels in every city of the country. He said that it is an open secret that Muslims are not given rooms and houses on rent in cities in the prevailing vitiated atmosphere or due to exorbitant rents poor Muslim students are unable to afford it. The hostels, which may be named as Maulana Azad Hostels, will help poor Muslim students, especially those coming from the rural areas to cities to study. The hostels may be managed by local NGOs, he added.
Ali Shareef and Mohammed Yousuf Kanni from Karnataka also presented a Power Point presentation putting their views and suggestions based on facts and figures. They pleaded for interest-free loans to the economically disadvantaged Muslims. They pointed out that the Planning Commission Report of the High Level Committee on Financial Sector Reforms headed by Raghuram Rajan which submitted in 2009 had recommended (page 72): “Measures be taken to permit the delivery of interest-free finance on a larger scale, including through the banking system”.
The duo said that the Sachar Committee report had stated that self-employed categories constituted about 61 per cent of the total Muslim workforce (73 per cent among women only). However, access to funds for the self-employed is a huge challenge. The plethora of loan-grant schemes available to enable financial access to minorities, however, actual implementation is far from satisfactory. They suggested that to overcome this the National and State Minority Development Corporations need to be financially strengthened.
They also suggested to hold an annual competition at state/ central level wherein NGOs can be asked to submit proposals for minority development. After evaluation, the best initiatives can be chosen and partly funded by the government as a grant. The Maulana Azad Foundation can be made responsible for this, they added.
Dr Mohammad Iqbal Siddiqui from Rajasthan suggested to develop system of accountability for the police force and administration, reforms in the working of police force, transparency in recruitment and immediate compensation to victims for loss in communal riots.
Navaid Hamid, General Secretary, Movement for Empowerment for Muslim Indians, (MOEMIN), and Member, National Integration Council based at Delhi, said if in three months time any state government fails to implement Central Government’s welfare schemes for minorities then NGOs should be given opportunity to fulfill the task. He said the development plans for areas of minorities concentration should be blocks and not districts. He wanted that 2000 primary schools be opened adjacent to madarsas in Muslim dominated blocks and not districts.
While Anis Karim from Gujarat too suggested that if any state government does not implement Central Government’s welfare schemes for minorities then it should be penalized. As a punishment the state’s share from the revenues earned by the Central Government be cut from the Central taxes wherever applicable. This Bhopal-based journalist/writer who was also part of the discussions and sole representative from Madhya Pradesh said that there should be strict monitoring of the Government schemes with an element of reward and punishment for those responsible of implementing these.
As such those who implement the schemes in letter and spirit should be rewarded while others indulging in dereliction of duty must be taken to task and punished accordingly. It should be borne in mind that uplifting the Muslims will not only benefit the community but would be good for the country as it would gain to create a cadre of good citizens, he quipped.
The funds should be granted to Minorities-run institutions only wherein 50 per cent students of minorities are enrolled. This will ensure Muslim-managed minorities educational institutions to come at par with others educationally. The grants should, however, include funds for purchasing land lands also as Muslims being poor usually lag behind on this front and, thus, are unable to derive benefits from various Central Government schemes. The agencies of these Central Government schemes as a pre-requisite demand ownership of land from the Muslims who apply for financial grants, then only the grants are sanctioned for building construction purposes and other infra structure development. This provision of having land ownership should be waived, he demanded.
In the Central Government Scholarship schemes for pre-matric, post-matric and merit-cum-means for the minorities the application forms should be simplified and reduced to 1-2 pages only; domicile certificate submission for students from Std. I to X be waived; submission of minority certificate also be waived etc.
The authorities in the Central Government’s National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), should see to it that there is no bias against the Unani doctors, who are mostly Muslims, appointed under AYUSH scheme. It should be ensured that the Unani doctors are appointed at par with the Ayurvedic and Homeopathy doctors, he urged.
Others who put forth their views during the consultation included Ms Nasreen Chaudhry (West Bengal), Ms Naghma Khaleeque (New Delhi), Prof Biju Mathews (USA), Zakir Hussain (Mewat), Irshad Mirza Baig (Gujarat), Ms Naish Hasan (Bharat Muslim Mahila Andolan) and Ms Mubeshirah Qayoom Mir (J & K).
---Pervez Bari can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org