By TwoCircles.net news desk,
Misra Commission report excerpts – home page
Gaps and Challenges
As is evident from the poverty figures, literacy, education and employment data, the Muslims minority is, more or less, at par with SCs/STs, BPL families etc. It was only in late seventies that backwardness of education of Muslim minority started receiving special attention and resulted in some action on the part of the State. After Census 2001 brought out its First Religion Report the statistics on several aspects of population by religion (literacy, educational attainment, sex ratio, work participation became available in the public domain that resulted in public debate and State action. In the last two years of the Tenth Plan, special attention has been paid to Muslims children under SSA and other measures have been taken to improve the social and economic conditions of Muslims in areas of high Muslim concentration.
Regional Dimension of Development: A Major Challenge
Analysis of data region wise indicates that Muslims who are considered an educationally backward minority at the national level are not a monolith. They have internal divisions of Ashraf and Non Ashraf (Ajlaf and Arzal) and there is a wide range in educational attainments across regions. In some of the southern states, their literacy levels are higher than the state average though it is poor in most of the northern states such as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Assam to name some. These are also the States which fare poorly on all development indicators and house bulk of the BPL population of India where rural urban divide is the sharpest. Backward status of minorities and specially Muslims has to seen in the immediate context of social and economic developmental status of the area in which they live. It is to be noted that majority of the Muslim concentration districts north of Vindhyas are among the most backward regions of their respective states with deficient infrastructure of roads, connectivity, electricity, water, sanitation, health and education as also low employment potential and thus low economic growth. These districts require higher degree of attention and commitment translated into budgetary inputs and better governance not for minorities but for all SEBs generally.
Although the weaker sections of society, including the backwards among minorities, have gained form the plethora of developmental measures adopted since Independence for their welfare, the reach is inadequate. It is important to identify gaps in the overall endeavours to bring about all round development of weaker sections of society. A critical review of the status of the minority communities indicates that as in the case of other weaker sections in the backwards amongst minorities, in terms of educational and economic progress, in access to basic infrastructure and share in decision making have miles to go.
Measures Suggested for Accelerated Development and Welfare of Minorities
The Commission had requested State Governments/UT Administrations to provide information relating to their developmental status and welfare measures taken for these classes through a Questionnaire. Based on the information received form the States/UTs, the discussions help with them and data & views available form other sources, special initiatives and thrusts required to ameliorate the difficulties are briefly enumerated in the following paragraphs:
There is a need to accelerate implementation of developmental and welfare schemes for the weaker sections among the minorities. This can be done only by increasing the accessibility of the poorer among the minorities, to opportunities, facilities and services for economic empowerment, educational advancement and to measures for ensuring social justice and equity.
It is necessary to collect information and data to assess the existing situation of minorities in different States and UTs, with a view to formulate need based, area specific programmes and schemes for targeting the socially and economically backward amongst the minority communities.
Public efforts and carefully conceived actions need to be taken to alleviate relative backwardness, especially in areas of education, employment, training, productive credit and political participation of the weaker sections of minority communities.
It is essential to review and reform the working of all 5 National Finance and Development Corporations (for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes, Minorities and Safai Karamcharis), so they can play an effective catalytic role in assisting the weakest amongst the disadvantaged minorities to become economically self-reliant.
Business and managerial reforms to make them more effective financial instruments for empowering the weaker sections of the special groups is required. Adequate funds from banks and financial institutions need to be leveraged to make them self-reliant. Suitable, need-based viable activities need to be selected, with necessary training, and backward and forward market linkages to ensure optimal utilization of funds and resources for the maximum number of minorities.
The role of National Minority Development and Financing Corporation has been undermined by insufficiency of funds and the stringent rules and regulations. As stated earlier, only 1.6 percent of eligible minority community members in minority concentrated districts had actually received financial support. Thus, both the quantum and also the net coverage needs to be substantially increased. For expanding coverage, all activities and vocation based corporations should be the Channelising agencies and there should be no requirement for State guarantee. For ensuring this projects should be prepared at the village and block level. The Monitoring Committees at Block and District level should also regularly see whether the amounts sanctioned are adequate for setting up the activity or trade, that there is no undue delay in approval, sanction and disbursement of loan amount. They should also review the recovery position. Reviewing the financial flow to minorities via the commercial banks, an RBI study (2001) recommended that lead banks of minority concentrated districts will have to play a far more pro-active role to ensure that minorities, particularly those who are poor and illiterate, have access to bank credit for taking up productive activities.
Whole the Governments of Bihar, West Bengal and UP have set up Departments of Minority Welfare, in other States/UTs, the work of Minority Welfare is being looked after by the Department of Social Welfare / Social Justice & Empowerment. It was suggested that a separate Department of Welfare of Minorities should be set up in those States/UTs where Minorities account for more than 15 percent of State / UT’s population.
State Minorities Commissions have already been set up in the States of AP, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Jharkhand, M.P, Manipur, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, U.P. West Bengal, Uttaranchal and Delhi. Keeping in view the grievances and problems faced by the minorities, it was suggested that State Minorities Commissions should also be set up in the remaining States where minorities comprise more than 15 percent of population of the State /UT.
The Governments of AP and Karnataka have suggested that in order to empower the minority communities, their representatives should be in all State level Commissions, Committees, Boards and Corporations and the Chairmanship should be kept rotating among different religious groups with a view to provide a sense of participation.
Independent Minorities Development & Finance Corporations have been set up in the States of AP, Bihar, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu only. Provision of financial assistance at concessional rates to minority communities is being looked after only by the Backward Classes Finance & Development Corporations in the States of Kerala, Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu and Pudducherry. In other States, there is no specific institutional set-up for extension of credit flow to minority communities. It was, therefore, suggested that States/UTs where population of minorities is more than 15 percent may consider setting up Minorities Finance & Development Corporations.
State Wakf Boards have been constituted in all States/UTs with sizeable Muslim populations except Jharkhand, Goa, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland. It was reported during the visits of the Commission to various States/UTs that the Wakf Boards are short of funds for implementing developmental schemes. They are generally facing the problem of encroachments on their properties. Some State Governments have formed Wakf Tribunals for resolution of disputes.
It was suggested that sufficient powers should be delegated to State Wakf Boards and they should be headed by senior officers for better management and getting the properties released form adverse possession. Karnataka model of Wakf Development Corporation should be adopted in all states having more than 15 percent Muslim population. Substantial portion of the revenue generated by the Wakf properties should be spent on the education of Muslims children especially girls.
It has been noted that minority educational institutions face a lot of difficulties in getting registration from appropriate Boards / Universities. During visits to States / UTs, it was emphasized that recognition should be granted to minority institutions in a reasonable time period and procedure should be simplified. In addition to Central Universities, deemed universities, colleges and other leading institutions should be allowed to affiliate minority educational institutions.
During discussions, it was suggested that the Central Govt. should provide special package for education of Muslims; educational institutions run by minorities should be given grants by Maulana Azad Education.
Madrasas of various grades and patterns are spread in almost all State / UTs for imparting religious education. In his book entitled “Centres of Islamic Learning in India”, Dr.ZA Desai, ex-Director, Epigraphy, Archaeological Survey of India) has recorded that Madrasas were located at central spots. While the curriculum centred upon the Quran, writing exercises, secular poetry and subjects like grammar were also taught.
During visits of the Commission to States / UTs, it came to our notice that the pattern of Madrasa education varied from State to State. Although Madrasa Education Boards have been set up in the States of Bihar, Kerala, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, MP, West Bengal and, the Board had control over administrative matters, quality or pattern of education only on the Madrasas receiving grants from the Govt. of India. States like Kerala and Tamil Nadu generally follow a pattern where children going to Madrasas are also attending regular schools. The participants in Uttarakhand, J&K, Delhi, Rajasthan, AP, Karnataka, Tripura, Kerala, Orissa and MP recognized the need for modernization of Madrasa education. It was noted that student from most of the Madrasas in Bihar, wet Bengal and certain Madrasas in UP, are given Certificates which make them eligible for further studies in modern educational institution.
In Bihar, 23 Madrasas are up to B.A. level and 13 up to M.A. level. However, the number of Madrasas imparting regular quality education at par with the government and other institutions recognized by State Boards is very limited. Eligibility for employment, both in public and private sectors, depend on the quality and content of education. It is, therefore, important that except for Madrasas that run and manage regular school, the rest should be encouraged to adopt the Kerala model so that all children attend regular schools. While the modernization of Madrasas / Maktabs can be pursued, it is no alternative to meet the requirements of the weakest of the weak among backward communities and classes. The State needs to aid only those Madrasas / Maktabs which are following curricula of the State Board / University for joining the mainstream.
Muslim Wakf properties are already being utilized, to some extent, for their educational development. There is need for streamlining and increasing the utilization of Wakf properties for educational purposes. They may be encouraged to set up hostels, particularly for girls on priority.
Specific measures are required for promotion of education among backward classes including the Muslims and other religious minorities whose educational levels are low specially for girls at different levels including the following:
i) Residential schools may be set up upto high school level in major towns and cities with minority concentration.
ii) Nursery/pre-Nursery schools also need to be setup in minority concentrated towns and cities.
iii) Hostels should be setup in each block/district for girls and boys separately where a minimum of 50 percent seats should be reserved for backward/weaker sections including those from religious minorities.
iv) At least two to three Navodaya Vidhyalayas be set up in each district with 50 percent of seats reserved for SC/ST/religious minorities and weaker sections.
A large section of minority population is still not aware of the schemes and programmes of the government and agencies. It is, therefore, necessary that adequate publicity is made in minority concentrated areas regarding all schemes.
Cooperatives need to be organized in specific pockets, especially in the Minority concentrated districts with large concentration of aristans and other functional groups belonging to minorities whose professions are of similar nature.
There is a need for encouraging the recruitment of members of the minority communities and other weaker sections at various levels in the police force and other services.
There is need to have a legal mechanism to ensure that minority communities and marginalized groups get a fair deal in matters of recruitment and employment.
Monitoring the implementation of PM’s 15-Point Programme
… there is need to create an institutional mechanism both at Central and State level for periodical monitoring of implementation of the various provisos of this programme.