Budget proposes Rs.10 bn for minorities’ welfare

February 29th, 2008 - 9:06 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of P. Chidambaram

New Delhi, Feb 29 (IANS) Finance Minister P. Chidambaram Friday announced Rs.10 billion budgetary allocation for the development of minorities, who account for over 18 percent of the country’s total population. With Rs.10 billion as plan allocation, the total annual outlay of the ministry of minority affairs for 2008-09 now stands at over Rs.10.13 billion.

Chidambaram in his budget speech said, “More candidates belonging to the minorities will be recruited to the central paramilitary forces.”

He said that a multi-sectoral development plan for 90 minority-concentration districts would be drawn up at a cost of Rs.37.8 billion, of which Rs.5.4 billion would be spent in 2008-09.

Some of these districts are Purnea and Kishanganj in Bihar, Saharanpur and Meerut in Uttar Pradesh, Hingoli and Buldana in Maharashtra, Dhubri and Goalpara in Assam, Ukhrul and Chandel in Manipur, Maldah and Birbhum in West Bengal, Tawang and Papum Pare in Arunachal Pradesh and Sahibganj and Pakur in Jharkhand.

The finance minister said that the government would open 288 new branches of the public sector banks by March this year in the districts with substantial minority population. Up to December 2007, 256 such branches have already been opened.

Chidambaram said that the government had taken up the report of the Justice Rajinder Sachar Committee for speedy implementation.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had set up the committee in March 2005 to evaluate the socio-economic and educational status of minorities, in particular Muslims.

The Sachar Committee report revealed widespread illiteracy and poverty among minorities, in particular Muslims. According to Census 2001, they account for 13.8 percent of the country’s population.

Chidambaram also provided additional Rs.600 million to the corpus fund of Maulana Azad Education Foundation (MAEF), an agency under the minority ministry is tasked with promoting education among the minority communities.

The government has earmarked Rs.1 billion to be disbursed as scholarships among the minority post-matriculation students, while Rs.719 million would be given to the students of pre-matriculation classes.

The government will make available Rs.454 million for modernisation of madrassas.

“It is a welcome step. Madrassas need to be modernised in tune with the changing dynamics of human society, where religious education alone cannot take any social groups forward,” National Commission for Minorities (NCM) President Mohammad Shafi Qureshi told IANS.

“The increased funds allocation is a good sign. It reflects the sincerity of the government towards inclusive growth.”

The increased funds allocation for minorities, however, did not go down well with all. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) said that the budget was divisive.

“Funds allocation along religious lines will not only destroy the secular fabric of the country but will also pave the way for another division,” VHP spokesman Vindo Bansal said in a statement.

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