A high-level committee set up by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) to find ways to improve the educational status of Muslims has suggested that the University Grants Commission (UGC) develop a Diversity Index — it should map the level of social diversity that institutes of higher education allow on campuses — and link development aid to how representative or diverse these are.
These are among the 43 recommendations of the 13-member committee, headed by Minister of State M A A Fatmi, which submitted its report last month. The Indian Express has obtained papers outlining recommendations of the committee which hopes that the Planning Commission, now in the final stages of fixing allocation for the XI Plan period, takes note.
The committee, the first to be set up by any UPA Ministry as figures of the dismal representation of Muslims in employment and the economy came to light, has steered clear of the debate on reservations for Muslims as a whole, as in its own words, “it is a highly emotional issue, and perceptions differ”. But it makes a case for reconsideration of the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order 1950 that allows for reservations as Scheduled Castes for only Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh SCs.
Describing the 46-year-old order “iniquitous”, the committee says that a study into “weaker sections among Muslims”, as is being undertaken by the National Minorities Commission, is necessary to establish causes of continued educational backwardness among large sections of Muslims and what “further action can be taken on it”.
The committee has taken potshots at the Ministry of Minority Affairs’ approach of earmarking districts according to minority populations and levels of backwardness, saying it’s a “purely territorial approach”. The Minority Affairs Ministry had marked out 338 districts in India with substantial minority populations (25% or more) and development parameters below the national average. To ensure closer targeting, the committee, on the other hand, suggests villages, panchayats, municipalities and urban bodies be taken as the base.
The Fatmi committee recommends that the approach towards minorities should be a “blend of the territorial approach of the Tribal Sub Plan for the Scheduled Tribes and the population focus of the Special Component Plan for the SCs.” The committee recommends a “Sub Plan for Educationally backward Minorities.” There is a recommendation for special attention to Muslim women’s education with a whole range of scholarships, from school to higher stages of education.
The committee proposes the creation of a corpus “of at least Rs 500 crore”, called the Aruna Asaf Ali Girls’ Education Fund, for this purpose.
Despite the Sachar Committee report stating that only 4 per cent of Muslim students go to madrasas, the committee has made detailed recommendations on using madrasas as a vehicle to transform education among Muslims.
It terms the allocation of Rs 625 crore for madrasa modernisation (set aside for the XI Plan period) as good, but says it “needs to be revised” to upgrade textbooks and raise fees of madrasa teachers.
Another recommendation has to do with the minority educational institutes, governed by Articles 20 and 30 of the Constitution. The report has asked them to “voluntarily reserve at least 50% of their seats for candidates from the relevant minority community”.
Minority educational institutes were kept out of the constitutional amendment in January 2006 that makes it incumbent on all educational institutes to set aside a quota for students of other backward classes. Other recommendations include making available popular textbooks in Urdu, providing the Central Wakf Council with financial grants to establish and maintain boarding schools for secondary/senior levels, ensuring scholarship programmes for institutes like the IIMs, IITs and AIIMS and other scholarship programmes for Muslims to study abroad.
(Courtesy: Indian Express, February 19, 2007)