Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Note to the Prime Minister - Post Sachar Policies

Disappointing Implementation and Monitoring of the
Post-Sachar Inclusive Policies and Programs in India

It is about five years that Sachar Committee report was submitted to the Prime Minister of India and subsequently to the Parliament. The government made a number of announcements during this period about exclusive implementation of policies and programs, such as the PM’s 15 point programs and minority concentration district programs. However, it must be stated that no credible and methodologically sound study have been sponsored or undertaken so as to evaluate and assess the above cited initiatives. Besides, the main philosophy of the Sachar report was to enable minorities including the Muslims find their place in accordance to their population (eligible groups) shares in the nation’s flagship programs and programs aimed to enhance, education and employment; and improve income earning opportunities including access to credit and markets and other poverty alleviation programs.

In this regard, I wish to highlight a few critical issues so that the government and policy makers initiate measures to address the lacuna and strengthen enabling environment for inclusive participation in development of India.

• Estimate share of flows to minority beneficiary in major flagship programs. Specify data and information for each of the minorities separately, for example for Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhist and Zoroastrians.

• Measure Diversity in public Spaces- including institutions of higher learning such as universities, IIMs, IITs, AIIMS and so on. Put up a mechanism for each state separately.

• Most alarming is that the Overall shares of Muslims in matric and higher education has improved the least compared with all socio-religious categories between 2004-5 and 2009-10 (see table below). This has happened along with the lowest base level for Muslims compared with other communities. In fact in urban areas where relatively larger percentage of Muslims lives, the share in higher education has in fact declined during this period.

• Review improvement in diversity in public employment across all states, on an annual basis.

• Establish a credible Data Bank which share processed data for easy use by the people at large. Currently only raw data are loaded on NSSO ‘website data bank’ which is not easy to use by the concerned stakeholders.

• The ‘Assessment and Monitoring Agency’ under the Planning Commission must contain technical experts in data management and analytical methods; and academics along with civil society. The revamped AMA has no representation from independent technical and academic communities which must be set right.

• The government is backtracking the establishment of an equal opportunity commission (EOC). All major democracies, especially the developed ones have instituted the EOC with great results and high level of people’s satisfaction.

• The government must also make policy statements as to how the ongoing Caste Census will benefit or will it adversely affect the welfare and affirmative action policies for Muslims and other minorities.

• On the lines of the Andhra Pradesh (2006), amend the panchayati raj act so as to make it mandatory that at least two minorities (including Muslims) are co-opted in the panchayats and municipalities across India (refer Sachar report, page 188).

• Sponsor research studies to evaluate the Minority Concentrated District Program of the MMA. There has been no effort to invite academic institutions to undertake this activity. The civil society alone is not well equipped to undertaken this very difficult task.

Urgent attention is drawn to undertake Assessment and Monitoring in the following areas:

Enrolments and School Continuation: Special Tabulations from the Census data for district level estimates of literacy and school enrolments by religion and rural - urban residence. Introduce Computer education in all elementary schools. Human Resources Ministry GOI has not written a single word on as to how and what policies were initiated so as to improve the school enrolment of the Minority/Muslims community in India. On higher education, the MHRD has not a single word as to how it intends to improve access; through what kind of affirmative actions or through the OBC reservations or otherwise.

Undertake Occupation Based programs: In collaboration with Ministries dealing with: Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSME); Employment and Labour | Minimum Wage Act | Child and bonded labour. SIDBI organizes programs for skill development under the MSME Act.

List of business and occupations which deserves immediate attention: Zari, Beedi, Muri, Leather, Garments, Brick kiln, Recycling, Chemicals, Lower mechanical, Foundry and lath machines, Blacksmith and Iron works, Sericulture and Silk extraction, Handicrafts, Wood work and Carpentry. (more such business can be identified using the NSSO 3 digit occupation and 4 digit enterprise codes)

Banking & Credit: Access to bank credit and mass micro-credit programs – RBI. Analyse data compiled by the “State Level Banker’s Committee” for each states of India. These data a compiled according to religion every year and the convener of this committee who generally is the lead bank in a state would maintain these data. The Priority Sector Advances available to be assigned to minorities is Rs. 128382 crores for the year 2010-11. This is 13% of all PSA and the PSA itself is benchmarked to be about 40% of all annual bank credit. The lending to the minorities is mandated to be proportional to their share in population of the region/state/district. Overall at the all India level the proportion is set to be 15%. Thus this source of credit is a growing pool of bank finance available to the minorities under the 15 point program of the GOI. Banks are also mandated to organize entrepreneurial development programs as well. But currently these data are not made public and not analysed to find out the extent of access of bank credit to religious minorities.

Community Based Polytechnics: Community Polytechnic Scheme is run by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India. This is wing attached to the regular polytechnics under direct central assistance scheme. Hardly any review has been done as to how this program is benefiting the masses. This scheme has huge potential to skill development and re-skilling layoff-labour.

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