As the Indian government is preparing to present its annual budget to the parliament early next week, experts have urged for increasing allocations for the welfare of minority communities to allow them to progress horizontally along with other groups in the country.

According to the 2011 census, the religious minorities comprised 19.3% of the total 1.21 billion population of India. It included 14.2% Muslims, 2.3% Christians, 1.7% Sikhs, 0.7% Buddhists, and the rest 0.4 % minuscule minorities like Parsis, Jains, and others.

A report recently released by the New Delhi-based Institute of Policy Studies and Advocacy stated that in previous years the government did not allocate enough funds for the welfare of minorities as per the demands presented by the Minority Affairs Ministry.

“For 2019-20 and 2020-21 financial years, 47 billion rupees ($626 million) and 50 billion rupees ($669 million) were allocated respectively as against the ministry’s demand of 57.9 billion ($771 million) and 64.52 billion ($859 million) respectively,” the report said.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Jawed Alam Khan, who led the team to draft the report said a large section of religious minorities in India has lagged in development indicators for want of proper budget.

“The budget for minorities accounts for 0.14% of the total union budget in 2021-22, whereas religious minorities constitute nearly 21% of India’s population,” he said.

He demanded that the overall budget of the Minority Affairs Ministry should be increased to make it at least 2.0% of the overall budgetary expenditure.

Minorities need social focus

Niyaz Farooqui, secretary of Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, India’s largest socio-religious Muslim organization told Anadolu Agency that there should be a special focus on minorities as recommended by various official committees over the years. He said that particularly Muslims are backward in education.

“The fund allocation to the minorities should be based on population and their backwardness. If the minorities remain backward in such a populous country, the country will not progress and move forward,” he said.

In 2005, the then Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had appointed a retired judge Rajinder Sachar to probe the social, economic, and educational status of Muslims in the country. The report found the literacy rate and other social indicators among Muslims below the national average. According to its findings, one-fourth of Muslim children aged between 6-14 had either never attended school or were dropouts.

Syed Zafar Mahmood, who was also a member of the committee told Anadolu Agency that they had found that Muslims were lagging behind the lower caste Hindus called Dalits or Scheduled Castes.

“Hence for the minorities, the central allocation in the annual budget should be at least 1,000 billion rupees ($13.31 billion)” he said.

Another report on the condition of minorities was submitted by National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities headed by another retired judge Ranganath Mishra in 2008, two years after Sachar Committee presented its report.

“Now we are in January 2022 and since 2008 there has been no national-level study to measure the social-economic and education status of the Muslim community or other minorities in India,” said Mahmood, who is also a former Indian bureaucrat.

Need for equal opportunity commission

He stated that during the intervening interregnum three state-level reports have been submitted in the provinces of Maharashtra, West Bengal, and Karnataka.

“A reading thereof suggests that since after 2006 (when Justice Sachar Committee Report was submitted) the social, economic, and educational status of the Muslim community has not improved in these three states,” he said.

Mahmood said in the previous year budget lower caste Hindus called Scheduled Castes comprising 16% of the population got 1,262 billion rupees ($15.8 billion) against 48 billion rupees ($640 million) for the welfare of minorities who comprise 19.3%.

He said there was a need to appoint an equal opportunity commission to ensure welfare measures reach equally to all the communities.

Dismissing the impression that not much funds are being allocated for the upliftment of minorities, Minority Affairs Ministry said November last year that its budget has been enhanced over the years. The ministry stated that in the financial year of 2013-14 it was allocated 31.3 billion rupees ($417 million) which was raised to 50 billion rupees ($640 million) in 2021-22.

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