The communities designated as minorities, which include Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Budhists and Parsis (Zorastrains) account for 18.4 per cent of the India'spopulation according to 2001 Census. Among them, Muslims constitute the largest group with 13.4 per cent of our population followed by Christians 2.3 per cent. The percentage of Muslim population in 1951 was less than 10 per cent and that of Christian about 2 per cent. As analysed by various experts including Justice Sachar, the high growth of Muslim population is contributable to higher female fertility. Unchecked infiltration from the neighbouring country, i.e. Bangladesh, has also enhanced the Muslim population growth substantially, which according to a view articulated by Justice Sachar in his report does not matter. The growth of Christian population, however, is mainly due to conversion among weaker sections of the society, particularly in SC/ST-dominated regions. The methods employed for conversion include allurement, deception and threats.
The policy pronouncements and programmes of the UPA-government seem to have far reaching consequences in disturbing our social equilibrium. In the name of development intervention to help the minority communities, the new schemes that have been introduced actually amount to division of our society. It is unthinkable to visualise inclusive growth through policies and schemes that are divisive and segregative. It will be pertinent to mention here some important features of newly introduced schemes and ramifications of their implementation.
The merit-cum-means scholarship provides that a student of minority community within annual family income of up to Rs. 2.50 lakh will receive course fee of
Rs. 20,000 and scholarship of Rs. 10,000 per annum as hosteller and Rs. 5000 per annum as day scholar. Although educational status of SCs, STs and some of the OBCs in the country is worse than that of minorities, the central government has not considered it necessary to introduce a similar scheme for them. The scheme looks like a government-funded inducement for conversion.
In addition to merit-cum-means scholarship, the central government has started another scheme to provide post-matric scholarship to students of minority communities. Accordingly, a student having annual family income of up to Rs. 2,00,000, is eligible for post-matric scholarship which includes course and maintenance allowances. It is to be noted here that the family income ceiling for SC and ST students to be eligible for post-matric scholarship is Rs. 1,00,000 and for OBCs Rs. 45,000. The income certificates for SC, ST and OBC students have to be issued by the designated revenue officers as per the prescribed norms. No such conditions exist for minority students. A self certification to be filed on a non-judicial stamp paper regarding annual family income of up to Rs. 2,00,000 for post-matric scholarship and Rs. 2.50 lakh for merit-cum-means scholarship is all that is needed. The discrimination is evident.
The scheme of pre-matric scholarship approved by the central government for students of minority communities provides for cost sharing of the scholarship in between the centre and the state at 75:25 ratio. The central government does not consider introducing a similar scheme for SCs and STs knowing it well that their educational and economic status is worse than that of minorities.
The Prime Minister's15 Point Programme provides for ear-marking of 15 per cent budgetary allocations under priority sector programmes for minorities. There are no additional allocations from the central government for this purpose. It is to be remembered that majority of SC and ST population is below the government-defined poverty line. This is why 50 per cent to 60 per cent targets under most of the priority sector schemes are required to be achieved by assisting SC and ST families according to the relevant guidelines. Setting apart 15 per cent of schematic grants without any additional allocation under the Prime Minister's15 Point Programme means diversion of benefits meant for the poor SCs and STs to that extent. For example, under Indira Awas Yojana, 60 per cent houses have to be given to the SC and ST families as per the prescribed guidelines. Under the Prime Minister's15 Point Programme, 15 per cent houses will have to be given to the families of minority communities which account for about 4.5 per cent of Orissa'spopulation. The fact remains that about 40 per cent of the Muslim population lives in the urban areas where Indira Awas Yojna cannot be implemented and STs do not change their social status.
In brief, the differential and more favourable scholarship norms for minority students from primary to professional courses, and the earmarking of 15 per cent plan resources under the 15 point programme are not only divisive and segregative measures, they can also be viewed as the central government sponsored incentives to promote religious conversion. The society should judge whether inclusive growth and social assimilation can be achieved through the segregative, divisive and discriminatory communal budgeting. Whether the parties in power actually mean development of minorities or want to misuse them as ?vote banks? perpetually. There is no country or society where inclusive growth and social integration have been achieved through divisive policies and programmes.
(The writer can be contacted at Qtr. No. 5R 9, Forest Park, Unit-1, Bhubaneswar, Orissa, 751009, [email protected])