Why are minorities disappointed with Union Budget 2023?

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Slashing the budget for minority affairs from Rs 5020 crore last year to Rs 3079 crore this year has led some to question the government’s proclamation of development for all. 

TCN Special Correspondent 

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NEW DELHI —  The government’s proposal to cut allocations for minorities in the latest union budget of 2023-24 has caused consternation among the minority community in the country, with many expressing disappointment with it. 

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented the budget on Wednesday, which allocated Rs 3079.60 crore for the minorities which is less than the previous year’s Rs 5020.50 crore and amounts to a cut of around Rs 2000 crore. 

However, the current allocation for minorities is a little higher than the revised budget of the previous year of 2022-23 when only Rs 2612.66 crore was earmarked for minorities. 

Expressing concerns over the budget cuts, Malik Moatasim Khan, national secretary of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JIH), said they were not expecting anything else from this government.

“This is against the slogan “Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas,” which they [the government] keeps on proclaiming. They say one thing but do another thing. This government is against the poor, Dalits, and minorities. It serves only capitalists and the rich,” he said.

Khan said that these budget cuts are an affirmative action to further victimize the already marginalized communities. 

“This government is also misleading people by spreading hatred against minorities,” he said. 

Break-up of minorities’ budget 2023
Out of Rs 3097.60 crore allocated for minorities this year, 132 crores are earmarked for the establishment expenditure of the Central government which includes the secretariat and the special programmes. 35 crores were earmarked for the secretariat while 97 crores were for the special programme for minorities. A special programme for minorities is meant for Haj management in India and Saudi Arabia.

A grand sum of Rs 1689 crore, which is half of the total budget, has been allocated for education empowerment. Pre-matric scholarship for minorities (433 crores), Post-matric scholarship for minorities (1065 crores), Merit-cum-Means Scholarship for professional and technical courses (undergraduate and postgraduate) (44 crores), Maulana Azad National Fellowship for Minority Students (96 crores), Free Coaching and allied schemes for minorities (30 crores), Interest subsidy on educational loans for overseas studies, Support for students cleaning prelims conducted by UPSC, SSC, State Public Service Commissions etc (no allocation) comes under the education empowerment. 

Rs 17 crores are allocated for Quami Waqf Board Taraqqiati Scheme and Sahari Waqf Sampati Vikas Yojna, Computerization of Records, Strengthening of State Waqf Boards and to protect vacant urban Waqf land from encroachers and to develop it on commercial lines for generating more income in order to widen welfare activities respectively.

A meagre amount of 64 crores has been earmarked for skill development and livelihoods. The skill development Initiatives (0.10 crore), Nai Manzil – the Integrated educational and livelihood initiative (0.10 crore), Upgrading Skills and Training in Traditional Arts/Crafts for Development (USTTAD) (0.10 crore), Scheme for leadership development of Minority Women (0.10 crore), Grants in aid to State Channelizing Agencies (SCAs) for implementation of NMDFC Programmes (3 crores), Equity contribution to National Minorities Development and Finance Corporation (NMDFC) (61 crores) comes under the Skill Development and Livelihoods. For this segment, the government has proposed a huge cut in comparison to the previous year when Rs 491 was earmarked. 

A small amount of Rs 26.10 crore was earmarked for the categories of Special Programmes for Minorities. Research/Studies, Publicity, Monitoring and Evaluation of development Schemes for Minorities (20 crores), Hamari Dharohar for conservation and protection of culture and heritage of Minorities (0.10 crore) and Scheme for containing population decline of small minority communities (6 crores) comes under the Special Programmes of Minorities. 

A significant amount of money 540 crores has been allocated for the PM-Viraasat Ka Samvardhan (PM Vikas). Skill Development Initiatives have been merged with this segment. 

Pradhan Mantri Virasat Ka Samvardhan (PM VIKAS), is a skilling initiative by the Ministry of Minority Affairs focussing on the skilling, entrepreneurship and leadership training requirements of the minority and artisan communities across the country. The scheme is intended to be implemented in convergence with the Skill India Mission of the Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship and through integration with the Skill India Portal (SIP). The scheme has the following components aiming to benefit approximately 9 lakh candidates in the 15th Finance Commission Cycle:

1. Skilling and Training Component: a. Traditional Training sub-component (earlier known as USTTAD and Hamari Dharohar) b. Non-traditional Skilling sub-component (earlier known as Seekho aur Kamao)

2. Leadership and Entrepreneurship Component (earlier Nai Roshni). 

3. Education Component (earlier Nai Manzil). 

There are Other Central Sector Expenditure, Statutory and Regulatory Bodies such as National Commission for Minorities, Special Officer for Linguistic Minorities and Maulana Azad Education Foundation (MAEF). A meagre amount of Rs 19.10 was earmarked for this expenditure. 

Rs 610 crore was earmarked for the Centrally sponsored schemes which are transferred to the states and Union Territories. Pradhan Mantri Jan Vikas Karyakaram and Education Scheme for Madrasas and Minorities comes under this category. 

‘Exclusion will hamper nation’s development’
Qasim Rasul Ilyas, a member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) and national president of the Welfare Party of India, said the BJP government’s step-motherly treatment towards minorities is quite evident in the budgetary allocation for the Ministry of Minority Affairs was slashed by 38%.

“The major share in the decline was of pre-matric scholarship which fell from Rs 1425 crore in 2022-23 to Rs 433 crore in 2023-24,” he said. 

Ilyas further said the budgetary allocation for these minorities schemes that provided empowerment components was also slashed which included Post Metric scholarship, Merit Cum Means, Free coaching, Maulana Azad fellowship, USTAD scheme for skill development, Nai Manzil and Scheme for Madrasa improvement. 

“If one section of the society is excluded then the nation’s development will be grossly impacted,” Ilyas added.