The Modi government is working on a major outreach to the minorities in the country through a slew of programmes, including building of educational infrastructure, encouragement to girls education and expanding the scholarship scheme.
Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, who is tasked to implement this outreach programmes, said the mantra for the coming five years will be 3Es — Education, Employment or self-employment and Empowerment — of the minorities.
The schemes will target the six notified minorities — Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Jains, Parsis and Buddhists, he told IANS in an interview during which he spoke at length about the various initiatives which will be rolled out soon.
“There could be villages, where there are no schools and colleges… We have decided that in such areas which do not have educational infrastructure like schools, colleges, polytechnic colleges, ITIs and hostels, we will build that infrastructure under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Vikas programme in a big way,” Naqvi said.
The educational infrastructure will be built within six months to a year, he said, while describing it as a priority of the government.
“We have started coordinating with the states. The state governments will identify such areas and we will provide funds for such an infrastructure,” the Union Ministers said.
Another part of the programme is to encourage girls’ education among the minorities.
“Girls of minority communities usually dropout early and don’t go for higher studies because of social and financial reasons and due to conservativeness. So, we are introducing a scheme ‘padho aur badho’ (read and grow),” he said.
The scheme will be launched next month.
“Earlier, there was 72 per cent dropout rate among girls of the minorities. That has become 40-42 per cent. We will make it zero per cent in five years,” he said.
“Under the ‘padho and badho’ programme, we will go from village to village to create awareness. We will tell them (minorities) that they are getting scholarship and other kind of help. So send your girls and boys to schools and colleges,” Naqvi said.
He said as part of the encouragement effort, there will be a facility for applying for scholarship through an online process there itself.
“To create awareness and encouragement among the minorities, we will organise ‘nukkad naataks’ (street plays), short films and ‘chaupals’ (village corner meetings),” he said, adding the schools will also be asked to promote the effort.
When pointed out that there could be some elements among the minorities who could counter this effort as has been done in some other minority-focussed programmes, the Minister said: “In the ‘padho aur badho’ programme, we will involve religious leaders and others who matter like village heads, prominent people from the field of culture, those who matter in the political field across the party line. We will take everyone along to create this awareness effort.”
Besides, for children of economically-weaker sections among the minorites, the government has decided to give 5 crore scholarships in the coming five years, half of those for girls.
The government will also work on fulfilling its promise of providing 25 lakh and more employment opportunities to the minorities through programmes like skill development.
“This will be our main focus. These are new initiatives,” the Union Minister underscored.
When pointed out that scholarships were given earlier also, he said the present government has increased the volume as earlier there would be only about 2-2.5 crore beneficiaries.
“Earlier, there used to be scholarships in numbers but middlemen used to siphon off the money. Now, the money goes directly to the accounts of the students because of DBT (Direct Benefit Transfer),” Naqvi said.
The scholarships will be for pre-matric, post-matric and merit-based, he added.
Targeting the previous Congress-led governments, Naqvi said in the last 70 years, the minorities, particularly the Muslims, were ignored in respect of education and empowerment.
“They (minorities) were subjected to political exploitation and the result was that their literacy rate got reduced, in employment they lagged behind and in poverty they are high in terms of ratio,” the Minister said.
Among the 10 poor people on an average, 5 are Muslims, he said.
“They (minorities) were used only for votes and deliberately kept away from literacy and employment. When our government was formed, Modiji spoke for 130 crore Indians. He never talked about Hindu, Muslim, Sikh and Christian. He talked about all. That includes minorities and Muslims,” Naqvi said.
Talking about the first term of the Modi government, he said several government programmes, like Mudra, housing-for-all, electrification and Ayushman Bharat, had benefitted the minorities in a big way.
Alleging that the previous governments of the Congress were “dishonest”, he said, “the minorities have trust that Modiji’s ‘vikas’ (development) agenda is not for votes and that we are doing development honestly. When we say development for all, we want it for minorities also. When we say education for all, we mean it for minorities too.”