Abusaleh Shariff, member-secretary of the Rajinder Sachar Committee on the status of Muslims, is angry and upset. He thinks the United Progressive Alliance government has not done enough to push the cause of Muslims' welfare.
Talking to The Hindu, Dr. Shariff said: “It is more than three years since the Committee's report established the pitiable socio-economic status of Indian Muslims. I am saddened and depressed that in all this time there has been more talk about Sachar than action.”
As a case in point, he refers to the Ministry of Minority Affairs' Minority Concentration Districts (MCDs) programme. The largest of the Ministry's schemes, the MCD programme gets the lion's share of the Ministry's budgetary allocation. In the current budget, the Ministry's overall allocation went up from Rs. 1,740 crore to Rs. 2,600 crore. The MCD programme's share correspondingly went up from Rs. 889.50 crore to Rs. 1,204.20 crore.
Dr. Shariff maintains that this increase is eyewash. “This is deceiving people” he says, because so far hardly any of the MCD amount has been spent by the States. The Ministry's own figures establish “the dismal state of affairs.” Only five States reported spending any of the MCD money. The rest did not even bother to send a progress report.
The five States in turn picked up only tiny amounts, averaging an expenditure of just 8 per cent of the funding approved for them. The total cost of MCD projects approved by the Ministry as of December 31, 2009 was Rs.1,821.50 crore. Against this, the Ministry's account books show an expenditure of only Rs. 142.40 crore. The highest MCD spender was Uttar Pradesh which lifted 14.3 per cent of the total approved cost of Rs. 582.30 crore. Haryana followed with 12.8 per cent and West Bengal with 6 per cent.
Initiated in 2007, the MCD programme identified 90 districts in 20 States for targeted focus, based on parameters of backwardness and a minority population criterion of at least 25 per cent. Most MCDs are expectedly Muslim-dominated.
Mr. Shariff accepts that a lot of government schemes suffer from underutilisation of funds. However, when underutilisation touches 92 per cent, then “I would think that the lapse is intentional.” He gives the counter example of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, where the fund utilisation averages around 70 per cent.
In an interview to The Hindu in September 2009, Minority Affairs Minister Salman Khursheed lamented that his Ministry was not able to touch the lives of ordinary Muslims. To be effective, the Ministry needed to have greater powers, he said.