Issues related to minority communities grabbed headlines in 2014 as some Hindu groups and leaders raked up subjects like ‘love-jihad’ and ‘ghar-wapsi’ but Minority Affairs Minister Najma Heptulla preferred not to read too much into these controversies.
National Commission for Minorities, however, took up the issue of MPs like Yogi Adityanath and Sakshi Maharaj targeting Muslims over ‘love-jihad’ and terrorism and wrote to Home Minister Rajnath Singh in September, urging him to probe their utterances as these “violated” provisions of the Constitution.
The NCM’s action came in the wake of criticism of the government by noted jurist Fali S Nariman for not doing anything to stop such hate-speeches targeting the minority community. He had also chided the commission for its silence and not performing its job.
Heptulla, however, blamed Opposition parties for playing up ‘love-jihad’. She said even inter-castes marriages spark outrage in society and termed it a social issue and not something between Hindus and Muslims.
As row over conversion and ‘ghar-wapsi (reconversion)’ continues to rage on, she has maintained a steadied silence on the matter.
The ministry, however, insisted that its developmental work moved on at a fast pace as it adopted a multi-pronged strategy with focus on educational, economic and women empowerment, area development, progress of vulnerable minority communities and strengthening of minority institutions.
During the financial year 2014-15, as on December 23, under scholarship schemes (pre and post-matric, and merit-cum-means based scholarship) for students from minority communities, it has released over Rs 1244 crore of budgeted Rs 2033 crore, it said.
About 49 per cent of annual plan budget of the Ministry is used on scholarship and fellowship programmes.
One highlight of the year for the ministry was the grant of minority status to Jains, a prosperous community of about 5 million people by the previous Congress-led UPA government. It became the sixth religion notified as a minority community besides Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis.
The status would allow Jains to run their educational and religious institutions.
The move also prompted Bahais, another financially well-off group with low population, and Kashmiri Pandits to push their demand for a similar status and their representatives to met Heptulla in this regard.
On the developmental front, which the Narendra Modi government sees as a key to win over minority communities, the ministry said it prioritised schemes to ensure natural flow of welfare efforts to maximise benefits.
It launched Online Scholarship Management System (OSMS) of post-matric scholarship scheme during the year while it is already operational for merit-cum-means based scholarships since 2010-11.
The Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) was also operational for transfer of scholarships in the bank accounts of students under various schemes.
In addition, the Ministry raised Maulana Azad Education Foundation (MAEF), an autonomous body which awards scholarships to 35000 meritorious minority girls annually and hiked it corpus from Rs 750 crore to Rs 1250 crore during 12th Plan.
National Waqf Development Corporation (NAWADCO) identified 77 properties to develop income generating projects, money from which will be used for the development of community.