The Muslims, who are a 150 million strong community in India, are getting impatient at their long wait to get justice and a fair share in the developmental benefits of the country. Sachar Committee Report rekindled in their hearts the hope of getting their due. It is significant that the atmosphere in the country has changed for the better. The opposition parties and the opinion makers of the country warmly welcomed the recommendations. Even BJP, which has based its policies on anti-Muslim stance, thought it fit to keep its opposition subdued.
Recently Union Minorities Affairs Minister A.R. Antulay announced in Parliament some measures to implement Sachar recommendations. Again a 15-point programme has been projected. Some Muslim leaders, out of frustration after long wait for justice, are desperately asking if the scheme would be implemented honestly or it is just another toy for Muslims to play with.
Way back in 1980, the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had set up Dr Gopal Singh Panel to prepare a report about the socio-economic and educational conditions of minorities. The panel did its work enthusiastically and honestly. But unfortunately its report was never made public. Whatever we know about that report is only on the basis of the "leaked" report. It can be construed that so bad was the outside atmosphere then, created by the communal parties that even mention of Muslims’ real condition was intolerable. But on the basis of Gopal Singh panel’s recommendations Indira Gandhi’s 15-point programme for minorities emerged. Had that plan implemented honestly we would not have needed the Sachar Committee. Yet, by and large, Sachar Committee recommendations have been welcomed by Muslims as they have rekindled a fresh ray of hope in the changed circumstances. Further the Muslims believe that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is a gentleman to the core, really means business, and will do his best to see that Muslims are brought at par with other sections of society.
Some Muslim leaders are critical of the proposed measures and allege that they are vague, half-hearted and insufficient. In the light of the recommendations, out of about 600 districts in the country, 90 districts have been identified as Muslim concentration districts, in which the 15-point programme would be implemented. For example, more primary and secondary schools would be opened in these districts. These schools would not solve the problem of high illiteracy and educational backwardness of the Muslims unless they are opened in the Muslim pockets of the districts. Muslim children have the lowest level of primary school admission. Poor Muslims prefer to send their children to work rather than to school as they are hand to mouth. Measures should be adopted by Muslim community leaders, Mohalla level committees and other associations to wean away these children from workplace and provide necessary facilities for their education. Muslim hostels, which are almost non-existent, also should be set up wherever they are needed. Separate schools for Muslim girls also should be provided.
Public sector banks have been instructed to open new branches in these districts. Only opening of more branches will not solve the problem unless the specified percentage of loans is not earmarked for Muslim traders, businessmen and entrepreneurs. These loans should be preferably interest-free or bear very low interest as they are meant for uplifting a backward section of society.
One of the problems faced by India is overwhelming prejudice against Muslims. Bureaucracy also bears the marks of this prejudice besides suffering from other weaknesses. Many good schemes have been torpedoed by irresponsible and prejudiced bureaucrats. The government should strictly monitor the proper implementation of this recently recommended 15-point programme. Sincerity and strict monitoring should be the hallmark this time. Otherwise the proposed measures will also fail to deliver the desired results. It is imperative that civil society and media also extend their helping hands by supporting these measures wholeheartedly. It would be a good omen for emerging India if Muslim segment is also empowered so that it is able to contribute its energies towards uplifting the country socially, economically and morally.