Empowering minorities by providing them education and employment opportunities will top the 2017 priority list of Union Minority Affairs Ministry which said bringing socio-economic schemes “out of papers and computers” and taking them to ground were its biggest achievement this year.
2016 saw change of guard in the Ministry with Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi assuming its charge following resignation of Najma Heptulla (now Manipur Governor) while the management of Haj pilgrimage was also transferred to it from Ministry of External Affairs from October 1.
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Often under attack from Opposition over issues relating to minorities, particularly in the wake of lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq in Uttar Pradesh’s Dadri in 2015, the government also sought to combat “Opposition’s propaganda” against it by undertaking outreach programme like ‘Progress Panchayat’ in minority-dominated pockets.
“The biggest highlight of our governance has been that we managed to bring the socio-economic schemes out of papers and computers and took them to ground. Progress Panchayat was initiated.
“… We also gave international platform to artisans from minority communities through initiatives like Hunar Haat (Skill Haat),” Minister of State for Minority Affairs Naqvi said.
Seeking to highlight the difference between governance of previous UPA and present NDA regimes, he said the number of Muslims employed with central government has risen from 6.9 per cent two-and-half years ago to approximately 9 per cent now.
Naqvi lauded his ministry for ensuring that scholarships reached deserving students through direct benefit transfer (DBT), eliminating scope of “middlemen siphoning off money”. A total of Rs 6,715 crore have been disbursed thus to three crore students until now, he added.
“This measure eliminated role of middlemen and we managed to plug 100 per cent leakage ensuring benefits reach the right students. Going digital helped,” he claimed.
Naqvi referred to another information campaign, the ‘Cashless Chaupal’, the Ministry undertook recently to connect minorities with cashless economic system.
“… We want a transparent, leakage-free and pro- development economic system. Digital transactions will benefit minorities,” he added.
Around 1.36 lakh pilgrims have been travelling to Saudi Arabia for the pilgrimage from India since 2013. As part of its efforts to bring in transparency in processing applications from interested devotees, the government has decided to encourage applications online January 2, 2017 onwards.
Besides, the ministry is also mulling launching a cell phone application to help devotees apply online for the pilgrimage.
The ministry has a budget outlay of Rs 3,827 crore for the ongoing fiscal. Out of these, Rs 2,732 crore have already been spent on various works, sources said.
These include Rs 1,800 sanctioned for distributing scholarships to students. The scholarships are being distributed through DBT in phases.
Besides, the government spent Rs 502 crore on multi- sectoral development programme, while the National Minority Development Finance Corporation (NMDFC) has been given equity of Rs 140 crore.
Among other developments, the ministry released Rs 79.91 crore under Maulana Azad National Fellowship, Rs 4 crore as assistance to students willing to learn abroad under ‘Padho Pardesh’ scheme and Rs 13.19 crore out of Rs 15 crore allotted for ‘Nai Roshni’ scheme meant for leadership development among minority women.