“Analysing Union Budget 2017-18: Through Minority Lens”, prepared by the Research and Capacity Building Unit of Centre for Social Justice, Ahmedabad:
In India six religious communities, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Zoroastrians and Jains, are notified as minorities under section 2(c) of the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992. In 2006, Sachar Committee report highlighted serious social, economic and educational backwardness suffered by Muslims. Around the same time a separate Ministry of Minority Affairs was carved out to ensure a more focused approach towards minorities.
Major policy responses to addressing the development deficits of minorities came in the form of a recasted New 15 Point Programme of the Prime Minister and Multi-Sectoral Development Programme (MsDP), both of which entailed significant budgetary commitments. Thus, budgetary analysis of these programmes can provide a reliable indicator of the progress on the government efforts for the development of minorities.
The PM’s new 15 Point Programme initiated the concept of minority budgeting in flagship schemes of the government as well as introduced a number of minority specific schemes. The latter were largely implemented through Ministry of Minority Affairs but also some other Ministries (Madrasa modernisation). Studies have revealed that minority budgeting in flagship schemes as was required under the 15 point programme has largely been notional, without there being specific targeting of minorities for benefits. It is also difficult to study minority budgeting in general/flagship schemes due to non-availability of disaggregated data of beneficiaries.
On the other hand, the present study of Union Budget 2017-18 is confined to minority specific schemes and looks at the direct allocation for minorities under – Ministry of Minority Affairs, Ministry of Human Resources Development and Ministry of Civil Aviation. It attempts to analyze the adequacy of funds, priority given to different areas within the minority allocation and the progress being made by the government efforts so far.
Share of Minorities in Union Budget
The present budget increases allocation to the Ministry of Minority Affairs by over 9 percent. At the same time there is a decline in the allocation to Ministry of Civil Aviation, with regard to Haj subsidy. So the overall increase in direct allocation for minorities is just over 2 percent. This is actually less than the increase in the size of the budget and actually reduces the direct share of minorities in the union budget.
Minorities who form around 19.32% of the population (Census 2011) are directly allocated 0.2% of the Union Budget 2017-18.
Allocation and Utilization by Ministry of Minority Affairs (MoMA)
The Ministry of Minority Affairs is tasked with implementing major minority-specific development programmes, relating to educational empowerment, skill development and livelihood, MsDP, etc. There is a 9 percent increase in the allocation to the Ministry; however looking at the situation of minorities, particularly Muslims, there is a need for allocation of far greater resources to cater to development of all minorities.
On the positive side of things, the utilization level of the Ministry of Minority Affairs has increased over time, reflecting greater efficiency and actual expenditure on the schemes.
Funds Distribution within MoMA
Almost the entire funds of Ministry of Minority Affairs are provided under the centrally sponsored scheme ‘Net Umbrella Programme for Development of Minorities.’ A look at the division of funds reveals that almost half of the funds are devoted to education empowerment, i.e. different scholarship programmes for minority students.
Little less than one-third of the funds are allocated for the Multi-sectoral Development Programme for Minorities (MsDP). Next priority is skill development and livelihood programmes for minorities.
Scholarships under MoMA
The scholarships to minority students are an important spending by the Ministry of Minority Affairs. Scholarship programmes already suffer from inadequate funding. It is sad that the present budget has failed to increase funding for scholarships. In fact, the largest of the scholarship scheme – the Pre-Matric Scholarship – has seen a decline in present allocation over the actual spending in 2015-16.
Multi-sectoral Development Programme for Minorities
MsDP is an area development initiative for minority concentrated areas that focuses on infrastructure for education, skill development, health, sanitation, drinking water pucca housing, roads, etc. for minorities. There is some increase in the allocation for MsDP, however the same is inadequate keeping in view the wide scope of the programme covering 710 Blocks and 66 towns falling in 196 districts.
Another concern within MsDP is the low levels of physical outcome progress under MsDP, indicating poor rate of work completion under the programme. So, as of now even though more than 80 of proposed funds for MsDP under 12th FYP have been spent, there is poor progress on the ground. This calls for better implementation of the programme by the Ministry.
Skill Development and Livelihood (MoMA)
Overall the skill development and livelihood programme of the Ministry of Minority Affairs has seen a 25 percent increase over the previous revised budget. This reflects the priority of the government on area skill development programmes for the development of minorities.
The given graph charts the funds spent/allocated for skill development schemes under the Ministry over three years. The schemes – Seekho and Kamao and Nai Manzil – have registered the largest increase. Similarly, there has been an increase in contribution to National Minority Development Corporation (NMDFC) which would lead to increase in access to credit for the minorities
Madrasa and Minority Education Institution (MHRD)
Government had initiated two Madrasa related schemes – SPQEM and IDMI, to provide funds for modernisation of Madrasas. However, the fund allocation for Madrasa modernisation schemes were substantially reduced in the previous budget, the present allocation remains fixed at that reduced level.
Haj Subsidy (Ministry of Civil Aviation)
Haj subsidy is provided by the government not directly but in the form of subsidy to the Haj Charters operator which in most cases happens to be the government owned Air India. Allocations under this head have seen a consistent decline over last few years, reflecting the budgetary outcome of the political rhetoric surrounding the issue.
- The direct share of religious minorities in the overall union budget remains at the dismal figure of 0.21%. There is pressing need to address this by increasing funds for minority-specific schemes and rigorously implementing minority budgeting in flagship schemes.
- The utilization level of funds by Ministry of Minority Affairs has increased overtime and remains high.
- There is no substantial increase in scholarships/educational empowerment schemes. Scholarship schemes are very useful for students and need to be made demand driven. The present allocation for scholarships is clearly inadequate given the large demand. Further, more funds are required to increase the unit cost due to inflation over time.
- Budget has increased allocation for MsDP programme but there is need for even more funds to reach out to all the backward minority concentrated areas. A major concern with regard to MsDP is slow rate of work progress.
- The Skill Development and Livelihood programme of Ministry of Minority Affairs has seen a good 25 percent increase in the allocation. The focus is on Seekho aur Kamao, Nai Manzil and credit access through NMDFC. There should have been proportionate increase in USTADD scheme which caters to traditional arts and crafts livelihood.
- The fund allocation for women empowerment scheme has remained stagnant. There is a need that government’s concern for minority women are also matched by its budgetary commitments.
- The fund allocation for Madrasa modernisation programme remain capped at the reduced levels.
- The subsidy for operation of Haj Charters has significantly declined.
- There is a felt need to introduce a Budget Statement on Minorities in the budget process.