The Sachar Report is now on the move. It is now moving beyond the debating stage. At the instance of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, several key ministries have been sent relevant extracts from the report, including its recommendations, and asked to get back with their comments by mid-January. These will be discussed at a meeting chaired by the Principal Secretary to the PM, according to a December 29 directive to all ministries from the Ministry of Minority Affairs. Those asked to comment include the HRD, Health, Power, Rural Development, Housing and Urban Development, Panchayati Raj and the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion.
The key issues on which responses have been asked include incentives in education, government, private employment, and housing where fiscal benefits would accrue to those who provide more opportunities to disadvantaged Muslims. Also included are suggestions of transfer of funds from Jawaharlal National Urban Renewal Mission to provide Muslim children access to parks and libraries. For villages, the plan is to ensure electricity, road and drinking water as well as minority representation in local self-government and panchayats.
The Minority Affairs Ministry’s directive says that the “proposed procedure and the time limit” for examining the report and suggesting follow-up action has been approved by the PM.
The Sachar panel, constituted by Singh in March this year, had its tenure extended until November 30. Its report tabled in Parliament was not discussed during the winter session but Parliamentary Affairs Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi had said that the government would take note of it in the Budget Session where there could either be some legislative measure or targeted budgetary allocation for the minority community.
Meanwhile, it has been announced that the 14-member high power committee set up by Union HRD minister Arjun Singh on the Sachar Committee’s recommendations will submit its report on January 31 instead of January 10 as indicated by the minister of state for HRD, M.A.A Fatmi, who is also head of the Committee.
However, The Asian Age adds: Senior ministry officials said although the committee has identified the major problem areas affecting education of Muslims in the country and the possible solutions to them, it was yet to gain consensus on the financial allocation needed for the implementation of the recommendation.
The committee has already informed the Planning Commission about its recommendations so that it can be included in the plan allocations for the XI Plan. The last consultative meeting of the committee will be held now on January 25, following which the final recommendations will be presented to Mr Arjun Singh on January 31. The issue of reservation for Muslims has been kept aside by the committee which has reportedly recommended that the matter of whether Dalit Muslims should be given reservation under the SC/ST category be looked into by the ministry of social welfare.
"It has been proved in states like Bihar and Andhra Pradesh which top the list of states with the highest number of Muslims in government jobs that if the approach is positive there is no need for reservations," a senior ministry official said.
A more proactive role by the states is also believed to have been recommended by the committee in its report which has apparently recommended that they should take further steps and provide resources in addition to the assistance provided by the Centre to improve the status of Muslims. Secondary education has been recognised as a key area of concern in the report prepared by the committee which has also recommended ways to improve other areas like primary and vocational education for Muslims.
Senior ministry officials also said new areas of concern have emerged and these will be discussed by the committee before giving final touches to the report.