Govt plans Provident Fund-like corpus for Muslim education

Written by Abantika Ghosh | New Delhi | Updated: Dec 30 2013, 16:35pm hrs
Muslim studentsMuslim education fund would be over and above the money that is planned to be raised by redevelopment of Wakf properties across the country.
In a unique initiative modelled after a Haj fund in Malaysia, the Ministry of Minority Affairs is looking at a Provident Fund-like corpus raised through contributions from the community, for investing in higher education infrastructure for Muslims. It has asked SBI Capital Markets an investment bank and the project advisor to conduct a feasibility study and submit a report.

Minister for Minority Affairs K Rahman Khan said they hope to raise Rs 10,000-15,000 crore from this effort. It is modelled after the Tabung Haji of Malaysia, that facilitates savings for Haj pilgrims through investment in Shariah-compliant vehicles.

This education fund would be over and above the money that is planned to be raised by redevelopment of Wakf properties across the country, through which the government hopes to raise Rs 50,000-Rs 60,000 crore, that too to be used for the welfare of Muslims.

This is a fund which will come entirely from the community. The governments role will be limited to creating an institutional mechanism, appointment of fund managers etc, like is done in case of PF. The community will invest for creation of higher education infrastructure and also get returns on that money. SBI Capital Markets will probably give the feasibility report in the next one week, Khan told The Indian Express.

The lack of higher education opportunities for Muslims has been a recurrent feature of all reports on the condition of Indian Muslims, including the Sachar Committee report, which noted that only 4 per cent of Muslims aged 20 years or more are graduates, compared to the 7 per cent figure for the general population.

In case of provident fund, the Employees Provident Fund Organisation acts as a facilitator for PF money compulsorily contributed by those in service. It also appoints a host of fund managers for investing that money in safe instruments and, based on the income from those investments, announces an annual rate of interest on PF money, that changes every year.

This is how the proposed fund will work, say Minority Ministry officials, the only difference with PF being that there is no financial contribution expected from the government as of now. Instead of financial instruments, the money will be invested into creation of higher education infrastructure, so the returns admittedly may take more time to trickle in.

The proposed National Wakf Development Corporation will have a working corpus of Rs 500 crore for redevelopment of Wakf properties. This, the government hopes, will increase rents 30-40 times over the money that is raised at present. Also in the works is a law to prevent encroachment of Wakf properties by invoking penal provisions under the Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Act, 1971.

Khan does not rule out some portion of the money raised by the corporation going into the education fund corpus.