Ahead of the 2014 parliament elections the battle to influence Muslim votes has begun in Uttar Pradesh. Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi has already addressed rallies in Muslim dominated areas like Rampur and Aligarh while the ruling Samajwadi Party has launched its campaign from Azamgarh in east UP, which has a sizeable Muslim population.
There is no dearth of politicians in UP right now whose hearts bleed at the plight of riot-affected victims from the minority community in Muzaffarnagar. But what about the bare essentials promised to the Muslim community by the Sachar committee? And what of the implementation of schemes for the upliftment of poor Muslims under the Multi Sectoral Development Plan (MSDP), devised as per the recommendations of the committee, set up by the Center in 2005?
The commitment of secular parties like the SP and the Bahujan Samaj Party can be gauged from the tardy pace of implementation of the MSDP over the last six years. MSDP is a centrally sponsored scheme where the major chunk of funds are provided by the Center and the state share varies from 10 to 50 percent for different schemes.
During the 11th Five Year Plan (2007-12), when the Mayawati-led BSP was in power, out of the total funds sanctioned by the Center as much as 233 crore rupees remained unutilized. “Had the funds been utilized for different schemes of education, health and infrastructure under MSDP, it would have changed the fortunes of the Muslims living below poverty line who are classified as worse than the Schedule castes by the Sachar committee”, said Maroof Khan, Chairman of the minority cell of the UP Congress committee.
For the last 19 months of its rule in UP, it has been the favourite pastime of the SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and minority affairs minister Azam Khan to hammer the Congress-led UPA government for not implementing the Sachar Committee recommendations. However, during the first year of the SP regime (2012-13), the utilization of funds under MSDP was a mere 2.74 percent of the total provision made in the budget. While the same figure in Bihar was 23 percent in 2012-13. Against the total available funds of Rs 230 crore for the MSDP, in UP, the actual expenditure was Rs 6.3 crore or a little over two percent during the fiscal 2012-13.
“The MSDP was nowhere in the priority list of the previous BSP regime (2007-12) and there is no major hurry in the present regime also”, said an official of the minority welfare department adding, “lack of interest by the district magistrates in identifying/acquiring land for the project is also another reason for the delay and poor utilisation of funds”.
A senior official of the minority welfare department claimed that the pace of utilisation has picked up in the current financial year of 2013-14 and the funds have been allocated to all the districts. “In the first year of the 12th Five Year plan (2013-14), Rs 433 crore for MSDP has been approved by the Center and out of this amount the Center has released Rs 187 crore to the state government, and Rs 177 crore to the districts”, said an official of the department.
In May this year the Union Minister for minority affairs K Rahman visited Lucknow. In the presence of the CM Akhilesh Yadav and Azam Khan, he expressed his displeasure at the poor pace of implementation of the Sachar committee recommendations in UP. Rahman said the Sachar committee had made 72 recommendations for the welfare and upliftment of the Muslim community and barring three, all others have been implemented by the Center. In the battle of one-upmanship, Khan claimed that the record of the UP government was in fact much better compared to the Center in the implementation of the Sachar committee recommendations.
The SP in its election manifesto for the March 2012 assembly polls had promised that those recommendations of the Sachar Committee and Ranganath Mishra Commission which can be implemented by the state government will go through; and, for the remaining recommendations, the SP will exert pressure on the Centre for their implementation.
In July 2013, Khan constituted a committee of officials headed by the then-secretary of minority welfare department Leena Johri, to study the status of the implementation of the Sachar committee recommendations and MSDP in the state. The committee, as outlined in the SP election manifesto, was to prepare a status report on the implementation of those recommendations which could be implemented by the state government. And for those recommendations which haven’t seen any progress, the report would be sent to the concerned department for taking suitable action. The report of the committee was scheduled to be submitted to the state government by the end of September. As of now, no one in the minority welfare department is aware about the committee. “I have no knowledge about the committee, you have brought the issue to my notice and I will check with the officials of the department”, said Devesh Chaturvedi, secretary of the minority welfare department.
The implementation of the MSDP commenced in UP from 2007-08. For the 11th Five Year Plan a provision of Rs 1,015 crore was made. The state government sent proposals to the Center for the construction of primary schools, junior high schools, primary health centers, industrial training institutes, polytechnics and hostels in both the technical institutions, Indira Awas (housing) in rural areas, construction of Anganwadi Centers (under Integrated Child Development Scheme) in rural areas and in minority dominated areas. A total of 16 districts have been identified in UP for the implementation of the MSDP, all of which have a sizeable Muslim population. The districts include Pilibhit, Moradabad, Sambhal, Muzaffarnagar, Shamli, Balrampur, Barabanki, Bareilly, Bijnor, Budaun, Lucknow, Rampur, Shahjahanpur, Shrawasti, Siddharth Nagar, JP Nagar, Meerut, Ghaziabad and Hapur.
Of the proposals submitted by the state government, the Center approved schemes worth Rs 780 crore. The total available funds were Rs 952 crore including the state share. But out of this only Rs 719 crore could be utilized during the five years of BSP rule in the state.
The actual situation at the ground level was revealed when a team from the National Commission of minorities (NCM) visited the state and inspected the work executed under the MSDP, in August this year. None of the district had managed to fully utilize the funds nor were the schemes implemented as per the actual aims and objectives. In the past six years not a single industrial training institute or polytechnic has seen completion which means no academic activity too. The success rates for the construction of Indira Awas and Anganwadi Centers were also far below the target.
This condition of woeful implementation holds true for the installation of hand pumps in Muslim dominated rural areas, and the construction of hostels, polytechnics and primary health centers in such areas. “The implementation of the MSDP in UP is a long saga of corruption and irregularities”, said an official of the NCM, who was part of the NCM team that visited the state. Following a complaint on the construction of polytechnics, the NCM sent a team to Bagpat district in West UP. Two polytechnics were to be constructed in that district. And the inquiry revealed that the state government had sent a proposal for construction of the technical institution in those areas where the minority population was a mere two percent. In fact, the proposal for an area where the population of Muslims was much higher, was rejected by the state government.
Confirming the complaint, Chaturvedi said, “We have received several complaints about the construction of assets in areas with low concentration of Muslim population. Now the rules are being revised and from now on before the construction of any asset under the MSDP, the district magistrate and the district minority welfare officer will have to certify the concentration of the Muslim population in that particular area of the district”.
Chaturvedi added, “The schemes under MSDP are being implemented by different government agencies and there are many projects which are incomplete and running behind schedule. The utilisation of MSDP funds is not ideal but during a recent review of the scheme at the Center in Delhi, it was found we are better at it than the national average”.