Why Multi-sectoral development programme for minorities moves at a snail’s pace

By Amjad Suri and Mohammed Imteyaz Ahmed for Twocircles.net

The multi-sectoral development programme (MsDP) division of the Ministry of Minority affairs has been presented as one of the most important action taken by the central government to address the condition of the country’s minorities. As recently as May 2016, former Union Minister Nejma Heputllah said the NDA government made available 18.4 per cent more funds under the MSDP for minorities as compared to UPA. However, a closer look beyond the claims of the NDA government shows that if one considers the North East region of the country, the scheme remains mainly on paper and the scheme suffers from alarming discrepancies and lack of transparency.

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In response to an RTI to the Ministry of Minority Affairs seeking answers on details of village clusters identification and reminders issued to the respective state’s government, we were informed that only 13 village-level clusters have been identified in the states of Tripura, Manipur and Meghalaya by the MsDP division of ministry of minority affairs. More worryingly, for the other states, no such data is available on village level cluster identification.

MsDP is a centrally sponsored scheme(CSS) approved by the government of India in 2008-09 to follow up action on the Sachar committee recommendations. It was launched in 90 Minority Concentrations Districts (MCDs) to address the development deficits of minority concentration areas by creating favorable socio-economic infrastructure. The objective of the scheme would be to fill the gaps in the existing schemes of the Govt. of India by providing additional resources and to take up non-gap filling projects (innovative projects) for the welfare of the minorities.

Plans and schemes under the MsDP seeks to improve the socio-economic conditions of minorities by providing improvising of facilities such as better infrastructure, sanitation, education, health-care and income generation schemes in districts where minorities constitute 25 per cent of the population or more. Thus far, previous governments at the Centre have identified blocks in 90 minority concentrated districts across the country.

Cluster of minority concentration villages falling outside the identified minority concentration blocks:

Within the blocks of backward districts not selected as MCBs, cluster of contiguous minority concentration villages (having at least 50% minority population) would be identified. In case of hilly areas of North Eastern States, such villages having minority population of 25% may be identified. About 500 villages, which fall outside the Minority Concentration Block, would be covered through such clusters.

The identification of the clusters which meets the above criteria would be done by the States/UTs.

For this purpose, the Ministry of Minority Affairs sent a letter to states and UTs to send the identified villages. However, till date they have not received the details from backward districts. This points out to a complete lack of communication in on the level of information sharing between the ministry of minority and the concerned states.

The circulars were issued to states/UTs for village level clusters across India in July-August, 2015 and is available on ministry of minority website.

Only 3 districts in UP, Shahjahanpur, Pilibhit and Allahabad have sent the identified backward villages with more than 50 percent minority population and. But if you think this is bad, in Bihar, which has a sizeable minority population, the district administration is yet to even identify the village level clusters in backward districts with more than 50% Muslim minority population. This too, came to our attention courtesy the central public grievance system for Uttar Pradesh and Bihar in reply to the grievance filed.

This shows that no matter how much the funding for such programmes increase, the end product will remain disappointing until there is accountability too. The state government should be proactive in identifying the village-level clusters for the development of minority concentrated villages in backward districts of India. This is also a call for raising the issue by all concerned parties, including Muslims, to get the development projects meant for their benefit, like, MsDP, Minority Cybergram, Nai Roshni, and Minority scholarship reach the respective beneficiaries.

Amjad suri is a financial consultant and Mohammed Imteyaz Ahmed is a medical practitioner.