Sequel to complaints that minority welfare schemes not percolating to intended beneficiaries

Ahead of the next general elections in 2014, the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government has proposed constitution of a high-power committee to review and assess the implementation of Justice Rajinder Sachar Committee’s recommendations and Prime Minister’s 15-Point Programme. This comes after a barrage of complaints from the Muslim community and a perception widely shared by people inside and outside the government that minority welfare schemes have failed to reach the intended beneficiaries.

Talking to The Hindu, Union Minority Affairs Minister K. Rahman Khan said the Committee was needed as there was criticism from the community that the implementation of the Sachar Committee recommendations was actually an “eyewash.”

“Even though the government has implemented almost all the Sachar Committee recommendations, I honestly feel that the benefits have not reached the intended beneficiaries. So there should be an independent review by people outside the government,” he said.

Mr. Khan said the committee, which is expected to be announced soon, would be given a timeframe to submit its report in. It will suggest ways to improve the delivery mechanism. Experts like Dr. Amitabh Kundu from the Jawaharlal Nehru University and Dr. Manzoor Alam from the Institute of Objective Studies have been approached by the government to be a part of the committee.

While highlighting the government’s attempt to reach out to more members of the minority community, Mr. Khan said that in the 12th Five-Year Plan the government has made blocks and not districts as the unit of planning for implementation of the Multi-Sectoral Development Programmes (MSDP). As many as 776 minority-concentrated blocks in 196 districts have been identified for coverage under MSDP which aims to improve the socio-economic standards of the minority communities.

Sources in the Congress said the government came up with the proposal of constituting the committee after numerous delegations led by Muslim groups met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and party vice-president Rahul Gandhi to make a point about the minority welfare schemes being ineffective.

The minority community’s argument about the need for restructuring of minority schemes was strengthened, they said, by several research reports, including one by former National Advisory Council member Harsh Mander, whose Center for Equity Studies (CES) has termed the flagship programme — MSDP — “blunt and ineffective”. However, the government had rubbished the CES report.

“The scale of government intervention is too small to touch even the fringes of the numbers who live with these deprivations,” the CES report had stated, while underlining the institutional failure in dealing with the development deficit which was highlighted by the Sachar Committee report.

The immediate trigger for the proposal for the committee was another well-publicised research paper by chief scholar at the U.S.-India Policy Institute Abusaleh Shariff in which he argued that there was no perceptible improvement in the status of Muslims.

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