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Union Budget 2013-14 How can Chidambaram Justify Rs. 3,511 Crores for Minorities?

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, by SYED ZAHID AHMAD

Mr. Chidambaram might be saying that he cannot satisfy all sections of the economy, but has certainly not justified with just following about Indian minorities in his 187-point speech lengthening to 27 pages.

“20. I have allocated Rs. 3,511 crore to the Ministry of Minority Affairs.  This is an increase of 12 per cent over the BE and 60 per cent over the RE of 2012-13.

“21. The Maulana Azad Education Foundation is the main vehicle to implement educational schemes and channelise funds to non-government organisations for the minorities.  Its corpus stands at Rs. 750 crore.  With the objective of raising it to Rs. 1,500 crore during the 12th Plan period, I propose to allocate Rs. 160 crore to the corpus fund.  The Foundation wishes to add medical aid to its objectives. I have accepted that a beginning can be made by providing medical facilities such as an infirmary or a resident doctor in the educational institutions run or funded by the Foundation.  I propose to allocate Rs.100 crore to launch this initiative.”

Interesting sounds that Mr. Chidambaram allocated 60% more for minorities compared to its Revised Estimates 2012-13; but would he feel the responsibility to explain when, why and how last year’s budget estimate for minorities been sliced by 1/3rd.  Now how can Indian minorities be assured that the allotted budget for 2013-14 would not be sliced to half before the next budget day?

Moreover, if we compare the allotted budget for Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) with that of minorities; this is not easy for anyone to believe that minorities got fair share in the Union Budget 2013-14. SCs (as 19.7% of national population) have been allotted Rs. 41,561 crores; whereas STs (with 8.5% share) received Rs. 24,598 crores. The SCs and STs collectively got 14.9% of their share (28.20%) in the national population, but all minority communities with Rs. 3,511 crores got mere 1.08% of their share (19.54%) in the national population.

To justify the minorities in this Union Budget (in accordance to their share in national population), Mr. Chidambaram should have allotted Rs. 45,851.35 cores (as 14.09% of their actual share in national population) because SCs and STs have collectively fetched 14.09% of Union Budget compared to their share in national population.

Mr. Chidambaram should have realised that if women, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes are important, minorities are also important because every fifth Indian is a Minority. If women can be presented as an exclusive Public Sector bank, Muslims appeal for financial inclusion should have been noticed. If farmers can be supported through matching equity grants for registered Farmer’s Producer organisation, demand for Participatory Finance should have also been listened. It seems the UPA Government speaks differently and works differently for minorities; otherwise some scheme would have been announced to support financial inclusion of Indian Muslims allowing them join India’s inclusive growth.

Considerably, an appeal was made to the Ministry of Finance for announcing constitution of a working group to analyse the constraints for financial inclusion of Indian Muslims; and to suggest remedial measures so that Muslims could get an opportunity to access faith-based finance in a secular manner. But that request fell on the deaf ears of our Union Finance Minister.

Similarly, an appeal was made to the Ministry of Minority Affairs to propose some micro equity scheme to enable 84% Muslim workers engaged in the unorganised sector to access faith-based financial resources for being in line for economic growth. This huge working group is not availing finance from any formal sector institution. On follow-up enquiry, it was told by the Ministry officials that the request has been forwarded. Probably, the higher authority in the Government of India who might have received that forwarded request would have considered it worth putting into the dustbin only.

There were a few surprising announcements in this Union Budget as well. Are Indian women facing problems to use existing banks? But there was a pressure to woo women after failure to protect them. On the other side, the announcement to extend the amount of credit to agriculture and to provide matching grant for farmers producers organizations (FPOs) seems a hidden agenda to develop market for Walmart.  Since it is difficult to help Walmart directly, it’s an attempt to show helping Indian farmers, but creating scope for Walmart to purchase agricultural produces from registered FPOs. Farmers would be provided more credits to grow produces and FPOs would be linked with Walmart to sell their produces. In this task Walmart would have persuaded FICCI and FICCI would have asked FSAC to recommend such a scheme to the Government so that on paper assistance should be reflected on account of Indian farmers and in field the advantage should go to Walmart. Similarly, to protect the Government from criticism of corporate personality like Azim Premji, 10% more taxes imposed on the rich for just one year.

Had BJP not pushed forward the name of Narendra Modi, the Finance Minister would have allotted more than Rs. 3,511 crores for minorities because there would have been no prejudice that to defeat Modi-led NDA Muslims’ votes are supposed to polarise for UPA in the next parliamentary election. Does he owe any responsibility to explain why he did not consider the largest minority community’s appeal for financial inclusion to assure inclusive growth? Is there any top class leader in Congress or in other secular party who would love to stand and ask this question to the Finance Minister? Or everybody is satisfied with how Mr. Chidambaram is treating minorities? If not, then this disappointment meted out to minorities might cost UPA in 2014, when Muslims polarise their votes to any non-Congress alliance.



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