Development practitioners, activists and academicians here on Saturday laid emphasis on “constructive use of religion” to change people’s mindset in the Mewat region, spread over Rajasthan and Haryana, in favour of promoting education and health care and strengthening the delivery system in these fields.

The Muslim-majority Mewat region performs low on all development indicators.

The focus on Mewat was laid at a consultative meet on improving health and education delivery system in the region organised here with the participation of a large number of stakeholders from Alwar and Bharatpur districts, where there is a majority of the Meo population.

The main organiser of the half-day consultation was the Society for All Round Development (SARD) which has been working in Mewat for over a decade for promotion of health, education, micro-finance and social inclusion. The event was held in association with the advocacy group, “Save the Children,” and IIMPACT, founded by the alumni of IIM-Ahmedabad.

Addressing the gathering, eminent New Delhi-based scholar Akhtarul Wasey said while the Muslim community had forgotten the traditions of their religion making it mandatory for them to gain knowledge “from the cradle to the grave”, the government had opened more police stations than schools in their localities in the six decades after Independence.

Prof. Wasey, head of the department of Islamic studies in Jamia Millia Islamia, said the glorious past of madrasas, when they produced great thinkers and scientists, must be restored to ensure their role in promoting modern education. Modernisation of education in these seminaries would go a long way in resolving the problem of educational backwardness among Meos, he said.

Prof. Wasey said the government should act as a facilitator in the spread of education and the initiative should emerge from within the community. Voluntary groups working in the Mewat region must take care of social and religious sensibilities of the local population and establish a dialogue with the people to understand their needs. At the same time, the beneficiaries must be ready to share the fruits of success as well as the blame for failure.

SARD chief executive officer Sudhir Bhatnagar, said though the Rajasthan Government had recently allocated Rs.60 crore for development of Mewat, the past experience had shown that the budget was often insufficient and its major portion had remained untilised. He called upon the local groups to help in extending the benefits of the government schemes to the target groups.

“Save the Children” State head Prabhat Kumar felt that the Mewat region could progress if the gap between social and economic sectors was reduced. State Minorities Commission member Subhan Khan said though there were enough development provisions in the government schemes, the local leaders were not able to generate awareness about them.

Minorities Affairs Department’s Deputy Director Saud Akhtar moderated a session on socio-economic scenario of Mewat and identified the issues and challenges confronting the Meo population.