Salman Khurshid replies to the Parliament debate on minority issues

By Mumtaz Alam Falahi,,

Union Minority Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, who was the target of a heated debate on minority issues for one week in both Houses of Parliament, admitted that the minority community needs more funds than what has been allocated by now. Replying to the issues and questions raised by Members, Khurshid on Friday said the Central Government is serious for minority welfare.

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On 25th March the last day of the 7th Session (Budget Session) of the 15th Lok Sabha which commenced on 21st February, 2011, Minister Khurshid, Lok Sabha Member from Farrukhabad in Uttar Pradesh, was responding to the discussion held (under Rule 193) on the subject “Need to Uplift the Socio-Economic and Educational Status of Minorities in the Country.”

Share of minorities in the Budget
Salman Khurshid refuted the view that proper share of budget is not being given to the minorities. Under the Prime Minister’s 15-Point Program, he said, minorities are getting 15 per cent of the funds meant for development in various schemes and programmes.

“Yesterday, during the debate, a point was raised as to whether proper share of Budget is being given to the minorities. I would like to make it categorically clear that minorities have got a right in the entire budget of the country. We have formulated the 15-point programme and 15 per cent of the funds meant for development in various schemes and programmes are being allocated for minorities. In all Ministries, 15 per cent funds are set aside. The entire House would be pleased to know that during the year 2007-08, a sum of Rs.6,000 crore was allocated for minorities under the 15-point programme which has now been increased up to Rs.21,000 crore. A sum of Rs.1 lakh 17 thousand crore has been provided for minorities under priority sector loans. Therefore, it is absolutely wrong to say that we are not allocating any funds for the minorities.”

He also said that with the completion of the current Five Year Plan, the government would be able to implement schemes and programmes, for minorities worth 7,000 crores of rupees. A sum of Rs.2,850 crore has been earmarked in the Budget estimates of this year.

Minority scholarship schemes
Minority Affairs Minister Khurshid said that given the success of the schemes the government is increasing targets each year. On Thursday, Lok Sabha MP from Hyderabad, Asaduddin Owaisi had demanded that in view of the educational backwardness of the community these schemes should be made demand driven.
The minister, in response, said: “Last year a target of 20 lakh was prescribed for pre-matric scholarships but so far we have given as many as 37 lakh such scholarships. This year financial target has been fixed at Rs.600 crore in comparison to Rs.450 crore last year. Similarly, a target of 4 lakh was fixed for post-matric scholarship last year and we have completed the target of 5 lakh by now and we have allocated Rs.450 crores in comparison to Rs.265 crore last year. We have set a target of 55,000 for Means-cum-Merit Scholarships and against this target, we have reached up to 40,000. This year, we have set aside Rs.140 crore as compared to Rs.135 crore last year.”

Khurshid urged the states to increase their absorbing capacity as the centre is ready to increase the allocations and targets. “As I told you that we provided 37 lakh scholarships against the target of 20 lakh scholarships. I would, therefore, say that the states should increase their absorbing capacity. We are ready to provide funds, we only want that funds should be spent properly.”

On Owaisi’s suggestion for increase in the number of minority concentration districts by decreasing the limit of 25% minority population criteria, the minister said the government will consider the suggestion. He, however, said that the criteria of 25% was used to cover North India where minorities are more backward than others.

Sub-plan for minority
The minister rejected the idea of a sub-plan for the minority also like SCs and STs on the ground that the program is not successful. Rather he stressed to make the 15-Point Programme successful.

“At times, it is said that like sub-plan for tribals and SCs, why not a sub-plan is made for the minorities. But this sub-plan has not been very successful, therefore, we should not move ahead about it. We should move forward with the 15-point programme formulated by us.”

Suggestions from the House
In the beginning of the debate in Rajya Sabha, Deputy Speaker K Rahman Khan had offered valuable suggestions on various issues related to the uplift of minorities, particularly waqf, interest-free banking and Haj operation.
In response, Salman Khurshid said he will work to implement all schemes and programs suggested by the House. “I assure all of you that we shall implement all the schemes and programmes suggested by this august House for the welfare of the minorities. We do not approve of secessionism. We want the whole country to assure the minorities that the whole of India wants that everyone should move forward and nobody wants that any section of our society should lag behind.”

He agreed that minorities are not getting as much as they need. “I agree to this view that more funds need to be allocated for them than what has been allocated by now. Hon. Finance Minister is present here in the House. Whenever we have approached him for more funds, we have been provided with the desired amount. Today, a sum of Rs.700 crore has been provided for Maulana Azad Education Foundation.”

Under-utilization of funds
The minister agreed that states including his home state UP are not utilizing the funds fully. “We have sent a sum of Rs.1000 crore to Uttar Pradesh. But this fund has not been properly utilized so far,” Khurshid said.
On the account of under-utilization of funds, he urged all Members to monitor the implementation of 15-Point Program

“Some of our friends pointed out that funds are being sent but they are not being properly utilized. I would like to say to all hon. Members that your participation and monitoring is needed for the 15-point programme. I would, therefore, request you to kindly get the meetings of 15- point programme held in your areas and in your states and if meetings do not take place then let me know. Till last year, there was no participation of hon. MPs in the 15-point programme Committee. From this year onwards, MPs are being included in the Committees. I would do my level best to solve the problems wherever they are and I shall also try to include more districts thereunder,” Salman Khurshid concluded.