Minority populations in India continue to face several challenges, despite government assistance. Here’s an in-depth analysis of how the government has tried to speed up the process of mainstreaming minorities, and what still needs to be done.
In his statement on the Annual Budget 2017-18, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the Budget is for the FUTURE, with one “U” standing for “under-privileged”, in which he included Dalits, the oppressed, women, etc.
This analysis looks at one category of people who have continuously been under-privileged and oppressed, but don’t find a mention in the PM’s statement – minorities.
As this analysis shows, the overall increase in the budgetary allocation for minority welfare is marred by the following three stark realities—higher education has continuously been neglected; employment support has been stagnant, and isn’t resulting in increased placements; and, the pace of infrastructure development in minority-concentrated districts is in a deplorable condition.
For Minority Welfare, the government runs several programmes which can broadly be categorized as “education support”, mostly through scholarships and free coaching; “employment support”, mostly through skill development, livelihood schemes, and entrepreneurship promotion; and “infrastructure support” through the Multi-Sectoral Development Program (MSDP). The analysis presented below looks at the present budget to see what it has in store for minorities, and also looks at the performance of this government in terms of targets set and achieved. In light of all this information, a critical conclusion will be attempted.
This set of data looks at Budgetary Allocation for the last few years, along with Revised Estimates (revision is suggested after a mid-year review of the budgetary allocation is undertaken) and Actual Expenditure for the Ministry of Minority Affairs as a whole:
|Year||Budgetary Allocation (in crores)||Revised Estimate (in crores)||Actual Expenditure (in crores)|
|2017-18||4195.48||Not Available||Not available|
This shows that allocation as well as expenditure picked up after 2014-15, and has been consistently increasing. But this data doesn’t present the complete picture. To make sense of the hidden information in this data, we break down the overall allocation to scheme-wise allocation for certain major schemes.
Within education support, we look at the following major schemes:
- Pre-Matric Scholarship (upto Class X)
- Post-Matric Scholarship (upto PhD)
- Merit-cum-Means Scholarship for Professional and Technical Courses (every year a fixed number of new scholarships are given out – 60,000 – apart from renewal)
- Maulana Azad National Fellowship (for M.Phil and PhD only; fixed number of new Fellowships to be given out every year – 756 – apart from renewal)
- Free Coaching and Allied Schemes (coaching for competitive examinations for higher education and employment, as well as specified training for industry-specific skills)
Each scholarship is designed in a manner that targets for fresh scholarship are set every year apart from renewal of existing scholarships. Each scholarship is contingent on students securing minimum 50 % marks in the examinations every year, apart from an annual family income criterion. The Fellowship doesn’t have an income criterion. The Free Coaching Scheme has a minimum percentage and family income criterion, but no specific number of students to be targeted.
It is interesting to note that the family income criterion gradually increases from maximum ₹1 lakh per annum in case of pre-matric scholarship, to ₹2 lakh per annum in case of post matric scholarship, to ₹2.5 lakh per annum in case of merit-cum-means scholarship. This means that the higher the education, wider is the pool of prospective scholarship applicants. Despite this, the number of scholarships given out, and financial allocation for the same, every year, is maximum for Pre-Matric Scholarship, and consistently falls as we move to post-matric scholarship and merit-cum-means scholarship. This is evident from this data presented below:
|Pre-Matric Scholarship||Post-Matric Scholarship||Merit cum Means Scholarship|
|Year||Physical Achievement||Financial Achievement (in crores)||Physical Achievement||Financial Achievement (in crores)||Physical Achievement||Financial Achievement (in crores)|
This can also be owing to the fact that the pre-matric scholarship caters to a longer number of years (Class I to X). But then, the amount of scholarship given out to a student increases from a maximum of ₹14,000 per annum in case of pre-matric scholarship to ₹48,000 in case of post-matric scholarship.
Another plausible explanation, however, is that higher education doesn’t receive as much emphasis as elementary and primary education. As the Sachar Committee consistently observed in its report in 2006, and the All India Survey on Higher Education highlighted in 2016, Muslims have the lowest enrollment rate in higher education.
These allocations are also not reflective of the fact that there is huge backlog in payment of the scholarship amounts. As per a question from the Rajya Sabha on February 7, 2017, the scholarships for 2015-16 were still under process. The allocations made every year for all the scholarships need to provide for the fresh scholarships, and also the renewals and backlog. The government hasn’t adjusted the scholarship amount for inflation in a long time. In this light, the nominal increase in budgetary allocation for various schemes is insufficient and merely tokenistic:
(₹ in crores)
|Year||Pre-Matric Scholarship||Post-Matric Scholarship||Merit-cum-Means Scholarship||Maulana Azad National Fellowship||Free Coaching and Allied Schemes|
Within the domain of employment support, we look at the following major schemes:
- Seekho aur Kamao – skill development initiative
- USTTAD – Upgrading Skills and Training in Traditional Arts/Crafts for Development
- Nai Roshni – Scheme for Leadership Development for Minority Women
- Nai Manzil – The Integrated Educational and Livelihood Initiative (for skill development of school dropouts or youth educated in community education institutes like Madrasas) (launched in 2015 on a pilot basis)
The budgetary allocation for all these schemes since 2014-15 is as follows:
|Year||Seekho aur Kamao||USTTAD||Nai Roshni||Nai Manzil|
From this data, one can see that the allocation for Seekho aur Kamao and Nai Manzil has increased manifold over the years, while that for Nai Roshni and USTTAD has remained static.
In a Parliamentary Question answered in the Lok Sabha on 7th December, 2016, the Minister candidly responded that the number of women covered in the Nai Manzil scheme during the entire 12th Plan Period has been just 1 % of the total minority women population. Yet, the allocation hasn’t increased over the years to cover a larger population of minority women.
Even for Seekho aur Kamao, the higher allocation isn’t necessarily resulting into increased placement of trained minority youth.
As per a Parliamentary Question answered in Lok Sabha on 30th November, 2016, the percentage of trained youth placed in employment has come down from 78 % in 2013-14 to 66 % in 2015-16.
From skill development and training to eventual placement is an important transition that needs to be consistently monitored and provided for by the Ministry. As per a Parliamentary Question answered in the Lok Sabha on 7th December, 2016, 79 Ministries/Departments reported recruiting 18,822 people from minority communities in government services and PSUs in 2014-15 whereas in 2015-16, 40 Ministries/Departments reported recruiting only about 2,748 people from minority communities. Unemployment among minority communities, especially Muslims, remains high, though as per a 2010 NSSO report, it has gradually reduced.
The Multi-Sectoral Development Program sanctions projects and provides funds for infrastructure development in Minority Concentrated Districts across the country. Some of the infrastructure projects undertaken as part of MSDP are:
- School buildings, computers in classes, hostels, toilets in schools
- Aanganwadi centres
- Polytechnics, ITI buildings
- Pucca Housing
The budgetary allocation for MSDP over the years is as follows:
|Years||Budgetary Allocation (in crores)|
The allocation of funds has varied slightly but remained stagnant over the years. What is problematic is that the completion rate for projects sanctioned every year has remained low. As per a parliamentary question, the reason for this is that such projects have long gestation periods.
What we ignore is that many of the units the government sanctions are actually human targets. For example, the number of students for providing skill training or spreading digital literacy though cybergrams. Even for such targets, which do not have a long gestation period, completion rate is abysmally low.
Below is data for MSDP projects from 2013-16, as per a Lok Sabha question on 2nd December, 2015:
|Year||Units Sanctioned||Units Completed||Work-in-Progress|
Also, the proportion of funds released to budgetary allocation for MSDP for 2014-15 and 2015-16 is as follows:
The budgetary allocation has not increased substantially for many years. Also, the spending and the completion rates for projects is low, raising questions about the government’s commitment towards minority welfare. Also, many states are demanding more Minority Concentrated Districts MSDP covers, to pursue a broad-based development agenda.
In conclusion, the budgetary allocation for minority welfare is increasing marginally every year. But, it needs more work if the mighty agenda of mainstreaming of minority populations is to be successful.
 Data compiled from Parliamentary Questions answered by Ministry of Minority Affairs. The latest question was on 7th February, 2017 and the most recent data is from 31st January, 2017. Data for 2016-17 is not available.
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