Despite announcing 50 million scholarships for minority students, educational grant cut down
Abdul Bari Masoud | Caravan Daily
NEW DELHI — Prominent minority groups and leaders sharply reacted to the 2019-20 Union Budget presented on Friday which did not increase a single penny in the outlay for the welfare of minorities and unfortunately it has reduced the allocations for scholarship scheme contradicting the Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi’s claim that the Modi government will provide 50 million scholarships to minority students in the next five years.
The Minority Affairs Ministry has been allocated Rs 4,700 crores, the same as the previous fiscal. Former Minority Affairs Minister K Rehman Khan said it has again proved the hollowness of Modi government’s tall claims made for the empowerment of minorities just after its re-election.
The budget presented by the new Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman allocated Rs 4,700 crore to minority affairs ministry and in the 2018-19 budget also the same amount was allocated to the ministry. In the year 2017-18, Rs 4,195 crore was allocated to the ministry, while in 2016-17, Rs 3,800 crore was allocated.
Generally, every ministry’s budget get enhanced by 10 per cent taking into account inflation and other factors but in the present budget nothing such happened. Even the Finance Minister Sitharaman in her marathon budget speech skipped mentioning of minorities and SCs and STs. Taking exception to this, former Finance Minister and senior Congress leader, P Chidambaram said it was shocking that for the first time, the new Finance Minister departed from the usual practice of mentioning vulnerable sections like SC, ST, minorities, women, etc. in the speech.
Naqvi, however, defended the government for not hiking the budget by justifying that unlike other ministries, minority ministry’s budget was not cut which has remained unchanged.
However, his immediate predecessor and senior Congress leader Rehman Khan said no justification can be made for this act as the ministry cannot achieve its targets.
“This government wants to win the confidence of the minority people as the Prime Minister had said in his first speech after his re-election in Parliament but it does just opposite,” he added while speaking to Caravan Daily.
Khan alleged this government has been misleading the general public and minorities on many counts. They (BJP) made a tall promise of providing five crores scholarships but in actuality, the number of Pre and post-matric scholarships have been reduced to just 55 lakh in 2017-18 from 86 lakh achieved in 2013-14 by the then UPA government, he said.
“They (BJP government) did not offer any provision in the current budget for alleviating the educational and economic backwardness of the minorities and their all claims are empty and misleading.”
Flaying the budget, All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat, an umbrella group of leading Muslim organisations, said the Modi government’s promises to the minorities were mere rhetoric. Mushawarat, president, Navaid Hamid pointed out that the present government which wants to win the confidence of minorities, particularly Muslims, was even averse using term minority. Like Gujarat budget, the Union finance minister also did not utter minority word even once in her long speech in parliament that shows this government’s ‘commitment’ for the minority welfare, he said. Mr. Naqvi was flaunting that the Modi government will give five crores scholarships to minority students but the outlay shows the funds allocated for educational empowerment of the community has been reduced, he said while speaking to Caravan Daily.
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.
Maulana Azad Foundation budget 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.
Hamid also pointed out that the government has not paid a single penny as it had promised after the Haj subsidy was abruptly withdrawn some two years back.
It is to recall that when the government announced abolition of the Haj subsidy, Naqvi had said it would use these funds to educate the Muslim community.
Noted academic Dr Sultan Ahmad told Caravan Daily that this government has been doing more lip service than the actual service. He also raised a very pertinent point that there are six recognized religious minorities i.e., Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Parsis but except Muslims none of the minorities have shown any interest in the minority budget or they are least bothered about it while they avail their due shares in all the schemes run by the ministry.
The government has made cut in the educational empowerment funds and marginally increased allocation for minority community candidates appearing in civil services examinations from Rs 8 crore to Rs 20 crore.
Since the scheme ‘Support for students clearing prelims conducted by UPSC, SSC, State Public Service Commissions, etc’ was launched only three candidates cracked the examinations while the government is trying to take the credit of civil services coaching centers run by the Muslim community.
Defending the cut, a ministry official said these schemes (scholarships) have been operational for some time and do not need more money while the government is focusing on persuading more Muslims to prepare for the UPSC.