An interview with Parveen Amanullah, Social Welfare Minister, Bihar

By Mumtaz Alam Falahi,,

Parveen Amanullah, Delhi University graduate daughter of former parliamentarian and diplomat Syed Shahabuddin, is Social Welfare Minister in Nitish Kumar-led JDU-BJP combine government in Bihar. She is perhaps first Muslim woman minister in the state since Independence. Mumtaz Alam Falahi talks to her about her ascent, agenda and all.

Support TwoCircles

What are your priorities and task ahead as Minister of Social Welfare?

Our ministry is large as it has so many concerns, thus our task is immense. We have social welfare schemes that deal with children and women; social security directorate that deals with pension for old, widows and disabled; women development corporation and many more. However, what stands out significant is ICDS – Integrated Child Development System which is popularly known as Anganwadi.

In your first statement after assuming office, you promised reformation or restructuring of Anganwadi centres that come under your ministry. What is your plan?

The system to run anganwadi centres is good. Everything is in place. But the problem is that powers of the people who run it are not clearly defined. The beneficiary sabha (committee) which has key powers to play is generally not able to use those powers as they are seized by head of an anganwadi centre. We are going to define powers, duties and functions of all and going to more empower the beneficiary sabha.

There are seven minority concentration districts in Bihar. The central government is opening several hundred new anganwadi centres in these districts under the MsDP program. How are you going to make it a success?

That scheme does not come under our ministry. That is with the home ministry. Anyway, we need hundreds and thousands of anganwadi centres.

As head of Social Welfare Ministry, how are you going to make your agenda inclusive so that Muslims, the most backward community socially, educationally and economically, are not left behind?

We will have to do good things, and when we deliver good things at village, panchayat, bloc and district level, I don’t think there will arise a question of exclusion or inclusion. We are going to work very fairly. Obviously, our agenda will be to benefit every needy irrespective of caste or creed.

Parveen Amanullah in her ministerial office

You are well educated, a Delhi University graduate. You came to light through your RTI activism. Recently you contested assembly poll and won and became minister. You are perhaps first Muslim woman minister in Bihar. How do you see all these in terms of Muslim women empowerment?

This has really nothing to do with Muslim women empowerment. What I believe in is that you will have to work. You can’t sit and keep on begging. People will have to work hard and show their mettle. I was never concerned about post or pay or privilege, I was just working without getting any kind of remuneration or post. That is what people should remember – they will have to show their mettle. The ministry I got is just a lucky break. I can’t say it is a manifestation of Muslim women empowerment.

You got thunderous applause at the swearing-in ceremony on 26th Nov when your husband and special secretary to Governor Mr Afzal Amanullah called you to take oath as minister. What was your feeling at that moment of time?

(Laughing) That time I was just concentrating on being able to get there properly and being able to read properly what I was to read out. I was just concentrating on that. I wasn’t thinking about any other thing. The ministers sitting with me were laughing and cracking jokes and saying this will be a historic moment for me. I was just too nervous and concentrating on the oath handout. Editor Mumtaz Alam Falahi with Parveen Amanullah, Social Welfare Minister, Bihar

When Parveen Amanullah, the daughter of stalwart of Babri Masjid movement Mr Syed Shahabuddin, was taking oath, the stalwart of Ram Mandir movement and an accused in the Babri Masjid demolition case Mr Lal Krishna Advani was sitting on the stage as a mute spectator. How will you describe it? Was it just a cycle of time, luck or just a political incident or political coincidence?

I would call it just a political coincidence. Nothing was planned. It just happened.

(Video and photos by Manzar Bilal of