Ministry of minor achievements
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In 2006, the Congress sought to make a bold political statement when it carved out a separate ministry for minorities. Six years on, the ministry is yet to deliver. On the contrary, it has slipped into inaction, becoming just a layer of bureaucracy to vet minority-related initiatives by other ministries or the Planning Commission.
Its programmes have drawn flak for being either too small in scale or not sufficiently targeted. Its flagship infrastructure development programme in 90 minority-concentrated districts is set for a revamp after a Planning Commission panel and a Parliamentary standing committee found major shortcomings.
Inefficiency aside, the bigger question is whether the ministry has been able to translate its political mandate into a creative agenda for broad-based affirmative action? The answer is clearly in the negative. To start with, neither A R Antulay nor Salman Khurshid — the two ministers who have headed the ministry — made any effort in this direction.
On the empowerment front, the creation of an Equal Opportunities Commission has remained on paper. The setting up of a Wakf Development Corporation has not seen the light of the day. The ministry has not been able to push its agenda, be it the Wakf Amendment bill or the Communal Violence Bill, by initiating amendments and achieving a consensus within the government. Instead, all of them have landed in controversies and, as a result, even the doables have fallen by the wayside.
The Congress is, in fact, open to the charge of using the ministry for politically expedient purposes such as carving out a sub-quota for backward minorities within the OBC quota ahead of the UP elections. All other suggestions of the Ranganath Misra panel have been largely forgotten.
As for the famed Justice Rajinder Sachar panel report, the ministry presides over its painstakingly slow implementation. The National Commission for Minorities continues to remain toothless and the proposal to restructure the National Minorities Development and Finance Corporation has been pending for four years despite an in-principle cabinet approval.
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