Reservation is no permanent solution
What were the challenges before you took over the Ministry?
There were many challenges when I took charge. But the biggest challenge was the implementation of several welfare schemes meant for the upliftment of minorities. To achieve my goals, I followed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s directive. He told me that I should strive to fulfil their basic needs as common citizens. In the last 60 years, most minority communities have not had their basic needs such as food, clothes, shelter and cleanliness met.
I also took into account the 450 speeches the Prime Minister gave during his Lok Sabha campaign. They were totally focused on development. Though the challenge that stood before me was how to achieve this for all minority communities, considering that each one has their own specific set of needs.
What are the major issues of the Muslim community? What have you done in the past two years to address their grievances?
In the Muslim community, the most important issue is lack of literacy. Our government has undertaken several key initiatives to address this problem. We encouraged them to go to quality educational institutions through better implementation of different scholarship schemes. It’s not that we were the first to roll out such scholarship schemes. Previous governments have also provided these benefits.
But the money usually went into the pockets of someone else. The NDA government strengthened all scholarship schemes by connecting them with the direct benefit transfer scheme. This has saved us crores of public money. The NDA government under the leadership of Modi is proving to be a game-changer for minority communities.
Another major issue was the dropout rate and how to impart quality education to them. The literacy rate among minority communities is very low, especially for girls. In response, the government has prioritised the education of young girls. We provide scholarships to 46 percent instead of 33 percent girls. To deal with dropout rate and the quality of education, the Ministry has started a bridge course in which we try and deal with students who have got a chance to study abroad. We signed an MoU with Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) for a bridge course for higher education.
To address the quality of education, AMU will start 100 schools at par with private schools on a PPP model, under which the land will be provided by the community. Meanwhile, infrastructure development would be taken care of by my Ministry. AMU will look after the operation of all schools. To make available quality education to students from the economically weaker section, the AMU will run these schools on sharing basis under which the financial burden will be shared by well-off students.
Half of the total strength would study in these schools free-of-cost while the rest would pay the full fee. A perception has evolved that the NDA government is anti-Muslim. How do you see it?
To some extent, you are right about the perception phobia. But have you ever tried to uncover the persons who have created such a perception? It’s the Opposition parties, who have left no stone unturned in putting Muslims in the backseat by treated them as their vote bank.
It is the Modi government which is working for the overall development of this community by linking skill training programmes to madrasas. The Modi government has taken several measures aimed at giving sustainable livelihood to the madrasa children. Even maulvis are coming forward to open skill training and computer training programme madrasas. They are very happy as the government is providing sustainable education to madrasa children without interfering in the madrasas’ system of operation such as course, timing, practices, etc.
What are your views on quota for the Muslim community?
See, I’m working for the overall development of the community. Reservation is not a permanent solution. The reservation system has never proven to be the solution. Instead, it has become a political instrument to garner their votes. The permanent solution is a comprehensive programme for development. If I’m going to take care of 96 children, I can take care of 100 too. That’s my attitude.
Some state governments are using the reservation system as an instrument of appeasement. But has it solved their problem? It hasn’t. The Narendra Modi government wants inclusive development. He doesn’t talk about the reservation system. He foresees children from the madrassas holding the Holy Quran in one hand and computer in the other. If you are digitally literate, you are connected to the modern world.
Do you have a problem with people saying ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’?
I have no problem with it. Even the Muslim community should not have any problem with this as it’s equivalent to Madre Watan. Given that I have switched from Congress, I would have said Bharat Mata ki Jai in that party too. We are Indians first.
What would you like to say on triple talaq row? Should it be banned?
The changes in the system should come within the community. If we think some reform is needed, it should come from within the community and not outside. It is for the community to decide.
Do you support a Common Civil Code?
Instead of Common Civil Code, there should be a civilised code to make all civilised. I don’t understand what they mean by a common civil code. Do they mean that the courts we have today are not civilised? Do we want to make a civilised court or what? All of us are governed by criminal laws, which is applicable to all citizens.
Now, as I said, there are six communities and they also have their personal laws and those personal laws are only limited to marriages, divorce, and inheritance. If there is any law which is discriminatory, the demand for change will come from within the community and not outside.
What are your views on controversies created after findings of Sachar Committee?
I don’t believe in committees. I believe in commitments.
(Dhirendra Kumar is Special Correspondent, Millennium Post.)