Through its India Councils Act 1909, the British empire introduced separate electorates for the Muslims and other minorities. This unique political dispensation was confirmed by the Lucknow Pact of 1916 between the Congress and the Muslim League. And it was incorporated in the Government of India Act, 1935. It was a gift to the Muslims that was given under Jinnah'sthreat of revolt and civil war and the Congress belief that it would preserve the unity of India, although many believed it to be really a device of the British to divide and rule. The Muslim League'srole in Partitioning a united India thankfully ensured that the Constitution of India, 1950, got rid of the evil that was largesse for Muslims but a gift tax on the majority community.
Now, nine decades after the devilish legislation of the British Empire, Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh has lifted that old leaf from His Majesty'sGovernment and twisted it into a separate financial electorate for the Muslims, with sundry minorities being appended as a teeny stem to the large leaf. He got his Cabinet last June to approve the proposition that 15 per cent of the nation'sFive-Year Plan funds for social welfare schemes be allocated specifically to minorities (read Muslims). And the draft 11th Plan outlay seeks to give shape to that separate electorate. He clearly couldn'tcare whether his idea divided the country or whether it led to revolt and civil war in our motherland. All he, the faithful, sycophantic Congressman, wants to do with it is to secure for his Party each and every available Muslim thumb impression on the ballot paper for the next general elections.
Manmohan Singh has been labeled as an economist and he prides himself on being a visionary who thinks ?out of the box?. Well, well, his ?15 per cent? idea is probably the only one of its kind in the world. When asked whether such a reservation of state funds for a demarcated group of recipients was prevalent in any other country, R.Vaidyanathan, Professor of Finance & Control, Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, could cite only the case of the USA, where, he writes in an e-mail, ?The businesses run by blacks/Hispanics [even Indians] get preferential treatment in executing jobs for federal and state governments. Thus, when tenders are floated, some marks are allotted in evaluation to the businesses owned by these groups.? Now weightage is just not reservation of financial resources for a specific political or social or religious group.
The fundamental question is whether our PM'sconcept of financial electorates will pass muster in a court of law. On the face of it, the idea of separate financial electorates violates Article 15 of our Constitution which lays down that ?The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds of only religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them? with exceptions being provided in that Article only in respect of special provisions for women, children and for backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Hence, a public interest litigation case on the subject might well cause the sudden death of the PM'snovelty.
Do communal budget allocations serve the larger national interest? Or will the idea result, instead, in creating further divisions of an already-fragmented fabric of Indian society?
Figures available already provide the answer. According to the report of Rajeev Ranjan Roy in The Pioneer of January 3, 2008, the Centre has reduced the fund allocation for the welfare of Scheduled Castes and Other Backward Classes by Rs 3,000 crore in the draft 11th Five-Year Plan, but trebled the allocation for the minorities to Rs 1,400 crore per annum. Clearly, Peter has been robbed to pay Paul.
See the injustice of such budget allocation to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes?Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (SJ&E) had sought Rs 11,185 crore was to be spent on socio-economic development of SCs between 2007 and 2012. ?The share of OBCs was Rs 2,250 crore. With the communal budgeting concept coming into play, the Ministry would now only have Rs 9,097 core to be spent on various welfare schemes meant for SCs during the Plan period, while the OBCs would get only Rs 1,588 core,? said Roy'ssources. Should the Harijans of Mahatma Gandhi now go on hunger strike till death?
However, and this is the crux, the Centre has kept minorities, particularly Muslims, in good humour by allocating Rs 7,000 core for them in the 11th Plan. It increases the annual allocation to the Ministry of Minority Affairs from Rs.500 core to Rs.1,400 core. Incidentally, the Ministry had sought only Rs. 1,100 core as annual allocation!! If that extra amount isn'ta bountiful bonus, tell me another.
But the Muslims are not going to be happy with that bonus ? they never are so with all that'sgiven to them in India. Thus, The Indian Express, Mumbai, of January 3 reported that the Maharashtra Government'sproposal to introduce subjects like English, Science and Computers in madrasas (where only Arabic is taught) under the PM's15-point programme drew protests from certain sections of the Muslim community because they interpreted the State move as a prelude to taking over the madrasas themselves.
Further, at a meeting in Kochi last June, the Muslim community prepared a charter of demands called the Cochin Declaration. Among the dozens of recommendations that the Charter made to the UPA government, the following struck one as stunning:
?The Muslims are 13.4 per cent of the total population, constituting 69 per cent among the minorities. It is therefore recommended that the 69 per cent funds in the programme be earmarked for Muslims.?
?The recent improvement made by setting up the Ministry of Minority Affairs should be further improved by setting up a Ministry of Muslim Affairs as the problems of Muslims in terms of economic, social and legal aspects are different from those being faced by other religious minorities such as Christians, Jains, Parsis, and Sikhs.?
?The government must formulate a sub plan/special component plan for the Muslim community on the lines of the tribal sub-plan/special component plan for SCs. There has to be a specific budgetary allocation in all development schemes for Muslims proportionate to their population at the all-Indian level.?
So there you have it. Who wants to divide India between the majority and the minority communities? And who wants to further sub-divide the minorities themselves?
During our Constituent Assembly debates, the liberal minded and erudite Minoo Masani had stated, ?The conception of a nation does not permit the existence of perpetual or permanent minorities. The nation absorbs these minorities or, in course of time, it must break up?Ultimately, no legal safeguard can protect small minorities from the overwhelming domination of big masses, unless on both sides (emphasis provided) an effort is made to get closer and become one corporate nation, a homogenous nation.?
But the likes of Shah Imam Burkhart wouldn'thave heard of Minoo Masani. Nor an Italian who rules the Congress Party very much like the British Empire reigned over united India.
(The writer can be contacted at Flat 202 Dosti Erica, Dosti Acres Complex, Antop Hill, Wadala (E), Mumbai 400 037 e-mail: [email protected])