Need to allocate far greater amount of resources to cater to the development of India’s minorities

rehnumaExcerpts from the report “Minority Appeasement: Myth or Reality? A Ground Report on Minority Welfare in 7 States”, prepared by Rehnuma, an intervention anchored by the National Foundation of India (NFI) and the Center for Social Justice (IDEAL-CSJ), started 2013 to address exclusion and discrimination against vulnerable groups in India, particularly religious minorities, using a rights-based framework through entitlement centres:

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, the Sachar Committee Report highlighted the serious social, economic and educational backwardness suffered by Muslims in India. Around the same time, a separate Ministry of Minority Affairs was established to ensure a more focused approach towards the development of vulnerable religious minorities within the country.

The major policy responses to address the development deficits of minorities came in the form of a re-casted 15-Point Programme and the 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 Central Government’s efforts directed towards the development of minorities.

The 15-Point Programme initiated the concept of minority budgeting in flagship schemes of the Central Government while also introducing a number of minority-specific schemes. The latter were largely implemented through the Ministry of Minority Affairs (MoMA) and also, to some extent, through other Ministries (eg. Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) with respect to the implementation of the Scheme for Providing Quality Education in Madrasas or SPQEM). 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. The present report verifies and substantiates this finding, though this has been made difficult due to the frequent non-availability of disaggregated data of beneficiaries.

Union Budget: Overall Allocation

The 2017-18 budget increased allocation to MoMA by over 9 percent. At the same time there was a decline in the allocation to the MOCA with regard to Haj subsidy. Because of this, 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.

This amounts to a direct allocation of 0.21% of the Union Budget 2017-18 for minorities who form around 19.32% of the population (Census 2011).

Allocation & Utilization by the MoMA

The MoMA is tasked with implementing major minority-specific development programmes, relating to educational empowerment, livelihood, skill and infrastructural development, etc. As mentioned above, 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 a far greater amount of resources to cater to the development of all minorities.

On the positive side of things, the utilization percentage of funds has gone up significantly over the years. The increasing utilization level for MoMA is a reflection of greater efficiency and actual expenditure on the schemes.

rehnuma1Funds Distribution within the MoMA Budget

Almost the entirety of the fund allocation in the MoMA Budget is provided under the Centrally-sponsored 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.

About less than one-third of the funds are allocated for the MsDP. The next priority for the Government appears to be skill development and livelihood programmes for minorities.

Education Empowerment under the MoMA Budget

The schemes for providing scholarships to minority students are an important area of expenditure for the MoMA. Scholarship programmes already suffer from inadequate funding. It is sad that the 2017-18 Budget failed to adequately increase funding for the same. For, while we find that the actual spending on these schemes has overtaken the allocation in the past several years, the physical allocation is claimed to be based on the 2001 census data and so even if the actual expenditure is marginally higher versus the allocated budget, it is tough to see it fulfilling the demand for this.

There is a case to be made for adopting a demand driven model for the scholarship schemes instead of the present budget allocation-based model. This had also been recommended by the Standing Committee on Social Justice and Empowerment (2015-16) to which the MoMA had suggested that this had not been approved (ostensibly, by the Ministry of Finance).

MsDP 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 this year; however, the same is inadequate keeping in view the wide scope of the programme covering 710 Blocks and 66 towns falling under 196 districts all over the country.

An important concern with respect to MsDP is the low levels of physical outcome progress indicating poor rate of work completion under the programme. Hence, as of now, even though around 80% of the proposed funds for MsDP under the 12th Five-Year Plan (FYP) have been spent, there is poor progress on the ground. This suggests an urgent need for better implementation of the programme by the Ministry.

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Skill Development & Livelihood

Overall the skill development and livelihood programme of the MoMA has seen a 25 percent increase over the previous revised budget. This reflects the priority of the government on skill development programmes for the development of minorities.

The above chart shows the funds allocated and spent for the skill development schemes under the Ministry over three years. The schemes – Seekho aur 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.

Allocation & Utilization by the MHRD for Madrasa & Minority Education Institutions

The Government had initiated two madrasa-related schemes – SPQEM and Scheme for Infrastructure Development in Minority Institutes (IDMI), to provide funds for improving the quality of education provided in madrasas. However, the fund allocation for these schemes was substantially reduced in the previous budget and the present allocation remains fixed at that reduced level.

Haj subsidy is provided by the government not directly but in the form of subsidy to the Haj Charter operators, which in most cases happen to be the government-owned ‘Air India’. Allocations under this head have seen a consistent decline over the past few years, reflecting the budgetary outcome of the political rhetoric surrounding the issue.

State Budgets: Overall Allocation & Utilization

Upon a quick examination of their minority welfare related Budgets, the seven states classify themselves into two categories – Low Budget Allocation States (LBA’s) and High Budget Allocation States (‘HBA’s). The difference in the direct allocation made for minorities between the two categories is quite stark. While the lowest Allocation was in Gujarat (Rs. 51.44 Crore), the highest was in West Bengal (Rs 3470.78 crore).

All of the LBA States except for Jharkhand also showed a downward trend in annual allocation for the last three years with the drop appearing the sharpest for Gujarat. The HBA States, on the other hand, show a steady improvement. Karnataka’s budget shows the sharpest rise from Rs. 845.02 Crore to Rs. 2199.94 Crore. None of the seven states have seen a change in Government in these last three years.

Spending on minorities as a percentage of the total State Budget is also the lowest for Gujarat (0.029%) and highest for West Bengal (1.9%).

The comparison between the percentage of spending and the population would not give a completely accurate picture of the State’s priorities considering that the former is the direct allocation and minorities do get access to a proportion of  the spending made by other ministries on aspects such as housing and education. However, a comparison between the percentage of spending on minorities to the percentage of spending on other marginalized groups such as Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes might help answer the question of priorities.

It is also important to look at the trend of utilization without being deceived by the size of the allocation. Certainly, while the allocations in West Bengal are the highest, its utilization is weak. In fact, utilization percentages for most States are dismal. Karnataka is the only State whose spending exceeded its allocated budget. Gujarat expectantly fared badly but it did still better than Odisha.

Both the West Bengal and Telangana State governments have made minority welfare a part of their governance programme but this is largely only reflected in their allocation and not necessarily in the outcome of the allocations, which usually goes unnoticed and unaccounted for.

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In Rs crore for 2017-18

State Priorities

A further analysis of the distribution within these State Budgets for 2017-18 gives us a clearer understanding of the priorities of the different states. Of the LBA States, Gujarat is the most focused on scholarships and education-related schemes (69.4%) and little on anything else. 19.4% of the estimated expenditure is for infrastructure development under the MsDP. Jharkhand on the other hand has a much higher allocation under MsDP (39.2%) and much lower for scholarships (1.7%). MsDP is of course funded heavily by the Center. 25.5% of the allocation is made for building boundary walls for graveyards and 17% for sub-allocation to minorities under the Jharkhand Government’s flagship scheme for distribution of bicycles. Interestingly, much of the allocation under Minority Welfare Budget is further targeted towards Adivasi areas under the Tribal Area Sub-Plan (TSP); so about Rs 72.26 crore of the total of Rs 117.42 crore (61.54%) is to be spent presumably for the benefit of minorities in tribal areas.

Madhya Pradesh, like Gujarat, is focused more on educational empowerment for minority children. However, unlike Gujarat, it seems to have invested in madrasa education as a way to attain this. 54.2% of its spending is on the SPQEM, a Central scheme. Another 8.1% is spent on grants related to madrasa and Schooling Education for Minority Children, though the exact nature of this grant is not clear. In the Madhya Pradesh Budget, the allocation for scholarship itself is nominal. There is also some focus on Livelihood programmes through sub-allocations under the Mukhyamantri Arthik Kalyan Yojna and the Mukyamantri Swarojgar Yojna.

Odisha’s allocation pattern is closer to Jharkhand with MsDP allocation forming the biggest chunk. These funds are also used for building hostels and this spending represents 21% of the overall minority welfare allocation. Stipends and Scholarship together amount to less than 2% of the expenditure.

Coming to the HBA States, Karnataka has allocations the most number of heads. Smaller schemes, grants and costs together amount to a big chunk. However, of the important specific heads, infrastructure development under the State’s flagship Chief Minister’s Minority Development Programme  leads to a large expenditure of Rs. 500 Crore (22%). This in itself is around ten-fold of Gujarat’s allocation for minority welfare. Rs. 316 Crore or 14.4% is allocated for scholarships in Karnataka while another flagship scheme called ‘Bidaai’ meant to support marriages of poor/divorced and widowed minority women gets 6.1%. 6% is also separately allocated for the construction of minority hostels, office complexes etc. The Central MsDP (2.7%) and SPQEM (2.3%) expenditures round up the major expenditures for this state and the overall focus seems to be on infrastructure development in the Karnataka Budget.

Similar priorities can be found in the Telangana Budget. However, the infrastructure development is specifically concentrated around education (34% just on residential schools and hostels). For the size, it has a large proportion of estimated expenditure devoted to scholarships (22%). There is a sizable allocation for schemes aimed at income generation for minorities (12%) and its flagship scheme for financially supporting the marriage of minority girls called ‘Shaadi Mubarak’, akin to the Karnataka Government’s ‘Bidaai’ scheme (12%). Of all the seven state Budgets including the LBA States, Telangana reports the lowest allocation under MsDP, which at Rs. 30 Lakh is merely nominal.

rehnuma4Finally, West Bengal, completely contrary to Telangana, has the highest allocation under MsDP (Rs 1,004.5 crore or 28.9%). As separate from SPQEM, West Bengal is the only state to give its own large assistance to Government and Non-Government schools and colleges that are presumably either minority education institutions or cater to minority students. This comes to about 18.1% of the West Bengal Budget. There is allocation sprinkled around for setting up minority educational institutions and hostels. What appear to be two flagship schemes of the West Bengal Government – Scheme for Development and Welfare of Minorities and Integrated Minority Development Scheme also see allocation that is each higher than the minority welfare budgets of the LBA States.

There is also significant spending on scholarships, though lower than both Karnataka and Telangana. Like Telangana, the overall emphasis appears to be on educational empowerment through both direct and indirect interventions and infrastructural development. While high allocation under MsDP seems to be a pattern in the West Bengal Budget, it fares poorly in utilization. The utilization for the MsDP component of the budget was particularly low for 2015-16.

Apart from a few budgets such as that of West Bengal and Jharkhand, the State share in the Central Schemes is not clearly identified. MsDP and SPQEM are both schemes that are implemented by the State and funded significantly by the Center; hence, wherever the spending on these is high, the State Government spends even less on minorities out of its own treasury. Madhya Pradesh, for instance, where SPQEM forms the largest expenditure and where State schemes have low allotment, gets to spend very little of its own money on minorities.

Telangana and Karnataka, and to a lesser extent, West Bengal stand out as those States that are committed to minority welfare and development because of their flagship schemes and expenditure on developing important infrastructure. Of course, it is Karnataka’s utilization percentage that lets it get away with the prize for the State most committed to minority welfare.

Nevertheless, budget allocations and prioritization can only be telling of so much. Even the utilization statistics do not give one the complete picture. Accessibility to state infrastructure and schemes may be independent of these things and the credentials of a State on these markers can only be established through field observations.

Download full report HERE

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