Sunday, September 13, 2015

PM's 15 point programme: Gujarat govt refuses to implement minority schemes despite policy nod, funds

By Rajiv Shah
Latest information, gathered by Gujarat-based non-government organization (NGO) Janvikas, indicates that even a decade after the Gujarat government declared it favoured implementing the controversial 15 point programmes of the Prime Minister for “ameliorating” the plight of minorities, things remain struck where they were in 2006. Official sources say, the matter has been under “active consideration” ever since, and there is no indication when it will be implemented.
The Prime Minister's 15 point programmes – floated by Manhoman Singh in 2006 following the high profile Sachar Committee report sought a “helping hand” to overcome minorities' social and economic exclusion – was initially criticized by Narendra Modi, then Gujarat chief minister, as minority appeasement. Modi and the BJP had dubbed it “communal budgeting” and a “ploy” to divide the society on religious lines.
Yet, at the policy level, under him, not only did the state government allow the programme to be floated in Gujarat, it even held meetings to implement it. More recently the government has even allocated funds for it, which it was not doing earlier. This suggests that the thinking at the official level to allow it continues. If in 2014-15, the state government make a budgetary allocation of Rs 2 lakh, while in 2015-16, the allocation shot up to Rs 10 crore.
Minutes of a meeting on February 14, 2011 – in which the ministers in charge of revenue, roads and buildings, panchayats, and social justice and empowerment, participated, and where the state finance secretary was present – suggest that the 15 point programme would need to be implemented in Gujarat.
The minutes quote the finance secretary as saying that “the Government of India has laid down guidelines for development of minorities” under the programme, and that the “state is obliged to cover maximum 15 per cent of the target under the various development schemes of the Centre government, and allocate 15 per cent of the budget for the same.”
The minutes say, a state level implementation committee under the social justice and empowerment secretary needed to be formed, with representatives from all the implementing departments – education, woman and child, panchayats, housing, urban development. It was also agreed that representatives from NGOs, especially minority-related NGOs, should be taken as members.
Says Janvikas activist Hofeza Ujjaini, who has gathered this information by filing right to information (RTI) application, there is “no progress” in implementing the 15 point programme even after 2011. In RTI replies on August 20 and 31, 2015, the state government acknowledges that the implementation the Prime Minister's 15 programme remains “under consideration”, but no “circulars/ government resolutions” have so far been issued on it.
The replies specifically says, “In the financial year 2014-15 Rs 200,000 and in 2015-16 Rs 10 crore have been allocated” for minority concentrated blocks – Kutch district's Obdasa, Gandhidham, Bhuj and Lakhpat – but as “no applications for taking up developmental work have come in, the funds have remained unutilised.” Minority concentrated areas or blocks are identified as those with more than 25 per cent minority population.
While accepting in principle the UPA government's 15 point grammes for minorities, the NDA government under Narendra Modi has made modifications in its implementation. Even as not allocating any separate budget, a new monitoring mechanism is claimed to have been in place under the Ministry of Minority Affairs, Government of India, for proper flow of funds to minorities or areas with a substantial minority population under different schemes.
Interestingly, failure to implement the 15 point programme in Gujarat comes amidst news that Gujarat will soon provide funds to the National Minorities Development and Finance Corporation to make soft loans available to minorities. The assurance has come for the “economic upliftment of backward section of minorities” during a meeting minority affairs minister Najma Heptulla took during a review meeting of minority welfare programmes of the western region last week.

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