Minority word missing from Budget speech, allocation reduced for Scholarship scheme despite recent promises
Less than a month before budget announcements, newspapers splashed the news, “Modi government announces scholarships for 5 crore minority students in next 5 years”. The messaging before polls was that through these scholarships, the Modi government is trying to create an atmosphere of healthy inclusive growth by eradicating the “disease of communalism” and appeasement politics.
In a complete erasure of the fact that scholarships for minority students were a flagship program of the UPA government, Union minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi had then tolda rather non-questioning media that scholarships will be “provided” for pre-matric, post-matric, and professional and technical courses.
Naqvi said, “To ensure socio-economic-educational empowerment of minorities especially girls through '3Es- Education, Employment and Empowerment', various scholarships including pre-matric, post-matric, merit-cum-means etc. will be provided to five crore students in next 5 years”
Soon as the Modi government came to power, PM Modi expressed his intention to win Sabka Vishwas (everyone’s trust). But the buzz on inclusive governance, especially education for minority students, that too Muslims in specific has remained at the level of just that..a buzz.
When Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented the budget on Friday, the word ‘minority’ didn’t feature even once in her long speech. The erasure of the word from the speech was reflected in the intention as well. Not only was there no increase in the outlay for the welfare of minorities, but also it reduced the allocations for scholarship scheme for minorities.
The right to education is every child’s right. The Pre and Post matric have been designed to support children from low income backgrounds who face additional vulnerability due to the location of their communities and religious backgrounds.
The Sachar committee report was released in 2006 and was significant in the study of the socio-economic and educational status of Muslims. As per the Prime Minister’s 15 Point Programme for the Welfare of Minorities, a new provision was made for scholarships to minority students at the elementary and higher levels of education across all parts of the country.
The pre-matric scholarship scheme was started to “form the foundation for their[children’s] educational attainment and provide a level playing field in the competitive employment arena” as it is held that “empowerment through education, which is one of the objectives of this scheme, has the potential to lead to upliftment of the socio economic conditions of the minority communities,” It also earmarks 30% of the beneficiaries to be female children.
However, it was subsequently found out that this scheme was not operating in West Bengal, Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand and Gujarat, states having sizeable Muslim populace.
The Bharatiya Janata Party’s stand on the Sachar Committee has dilly dallied through the years. Ever since the report saw the light of the day, it faced opposition from the BJP and its allies. However, in a complete U-turn, the current Prime Minister, who was then campaigning before the 2014 elections, made a complete U-turn and had said that Sachar Committee report’s findings will “form the basis of the BJP’s policy orientation in the future.”
Clear linkages to the poverty of minorities and absence of access and deliverance to scholarships have been established in the past. An exclusive three part study by SabrangIndia found out that all the larger minorities namely Muslims, Sikhs and Christians have experienced a decline in the outreach of the scholarships while Buddhists have seen a massive decline in states where their population is significant.
Read Sabrangindia’s exclusive three part study carried in October-November 2018 may be read here:
Sab Ka Saath, Sab Ka Vikas a Farce, as Direct Benefit Transfers Spell Doom for Minority Students
Modi Regime squeezes out ALL Minorities, Even Buddhists, from Scholarships
Decline in Minority Scholarships in all Poll Bound States Except Telangana
In the budget presented recently, the Minority Affairs Ministry (MFA) was allocated Rs. 4700 crores, same as previous fiscal. In the year 2017-18, Rs 4,195 crore was allocated to the ministry, while in 2016-17, Rs 3,800 crore was allocated.
Not only has there been an apathetic stand in allocating funds, but also in the outreach of the scholarship itself. A secondary research study undertaken by SabrangIndia highlighted how the total number of beneficiaries were targeted to be 30 lakh but only about 12% of them or 3,69,549 were actually benefited in the first quarter of the fiscal till June 30, 2017.
Each year, every ministry’s budget gets enhanced by 10 percent taking into account inflation and other factors but the budget allocated for minority scholarships. This wasn’t the case this time. Moreover, apparently, the number of Pre-matric and Post-matric scholarships were reduced to 55 lakhs in 2017-18 as compared to 86 lakhs in 2013-14 during the UPA government’s regime.
In the new budget, the allocation for scholarships has also been reduced to Rs 2,362 crores from Rs 2,451 crores last year. The grants for pre-matric and post-matric scholarships have been reduced from Rs 1,296 crores last year to Rs 1,220 crores this year, and from Rs 500 crore to Rs 496 crore this year, respectively.
The budget for the Maulana Azad Foundation was also reduced to Rs 90 crores from 123 crores and also Maulana Azad Fellowship budget was marginally cut down to 153 crores from 155 crores.Two years back, the Haj subsidy was withdrawn in the name of providing education to Muslim youth, however, the same isn’t reflected in the Budget allocations.
The SabrangIndia study had noted that the minority coverage in every state [Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram] has declined over the period 2011-12 to 2017-18 although the level and rates of declines are different. This had to do with the poor socio-economic conditions prevailing in the state.
The problems inherent within the scheme itself, get exacerbated due to the apathy of the government and its clear blind sightedness towards minorities.
A Time cover called had called PM Modi the Divider-in-Chief. Though PM Modi won the elections, his reputation of favouring majoritarian politics couldn’t be washed off. It was important that a PR exercise, much like the ones taken with respect to government schemes was required to build the image of a leader who’s not only ‘pro-development’ but also ‘pro-minorities’. To this extent there has been a lot of lip service. Modi made public his dream of seeing Muslim youth carrying the Quran in one hand and a computer in the other.
However, the blatant erasure of even the word minorities is a reminiscent of a time when the BJP, along with the RSS disapproved of the establishment of the Minorities Commission and had pleaded that a Human Rights Commission was preferable, giving and impression that the two are conflictual. Today, times have changed. Such an opposition isn’t possible anymore in public discourse. While the discourse is developed to favour everyone’s development, clearly minority students are left out of the paradigm.