Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi is Union Minister of Minority Affairs. He has effectively implemented various schemes aimed at socio-economic-educational empowerment of poor & weaker sections of minority communities with the goal of “Development with Dignity”. Recognised as a constructive, companionable & cultured leader, Mr Naqvi has a long political, administrative and organisational experience. He believes in the principle “Never stop learning because life never stops teaching”
Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, the lone Muslim face in the Narendra Modi government, is known for his articulated opinions. In a freewheeling interview with Urooj Fatima, Havisha Arora (Grade 11, Shiv Nadar School, Noida) and Misha Raj (Grade 11, Shiv Nadar School, Noida), Naqvi talks openly about minority issue, schemes and programmes ministry provide for the minority and to which percentage they have been implemented so far.
In the past four years, I have seen that there has been development with dignity, and empowerment without appeasement. We have fulfilled all our commitments. The Narendra Modi government has worked positively and constructively towards inclusive development. As far as minorities are concerned, we have managed to break the stereotypes associated with them that they should be appeased and not empowered.
Here are excerpts of the interview:
What inspired you to take up politics?
During my college days there was a movement going on launched by Indian political leader, ‘LokNayak’ Jayaprakash Narayan, and it was called “Sampoorna Kranti” . Many students from my college were also getting involved in the movement for the democratic values and fundamental rights. This awakened my interest in politics and I joined the movement too.
Do you think all the schemes and programmes that have been launched by the Ministry of Minority affairs is being implemented everywhere and people are aware of these schemes?
I don’t think every programme is being implemented 100 percent. We are trying our best for transparency in these programmes, and to make sure they reach all the needy people. Narendra Modi’s government is trying to change the system for the betterment of the citizens and to some level, it is being changed also. I accept that the schemes that the Ministry of Minority affairs is providing, and rest of the ministries also, are not reaching to the lower section of the society because of many reasons. But I’ll say that in the last three years, Rs 1.75 crore has been directly deposited into the account of the scholarship-holders. There is no middleman in the scholarship programme, which resulted in the stoppage of leakage in the scheme. Only 2-4 percent interest is taken in the education loan we provide under MFDC.
Apart from creating awareness through the social media, print media, we have also started ‘Progress Panchayat’, an innovative interaction programme to establish direct communication with the deprived sections of the society, particularly minorities, and generate awareness about Government’s welfare and empowerment schemes for them. Officials and ministers from both the Centre and states and the local people came on to the same platform to interact and discuss the implementation of schemes, and issues relating to social, educational and economic development of minorities, and about the action being taken. ‘Progress Panchayat’ is aimed at listening to people’s problems and to resolve them, and seeking ground level report to fulfill and accelerate the Central Government’s commitment to ‘Sab ka Saath, Sab ka Vikas’ and ‘Antyodaya’.
The revolution that social media has brought in the lives of people is also helping to take these programmes to even remote areas. At least 60-70 per cent people are using social media through which they are being made aware of the schemes and policies.
It functions as community centre for the benefit of the minority communities and weaker sections. The reformed form of Chaupals will be set up in every block of the district to bring together people of all communities so that they participate in programmes of communal harmony, skill development, education and sports. In the last 48 months we have established 350 Sadbhavana Mandaps.
This is an initiative by the Ministry of Minority Affairs under USTTAD that gives opportunity to artisans from minority communities to showcase their traditional arts and craft in different parts of the country. The haat clocked sales and orders worth over Rs 100 crore.
In this scheme, minority artisans and craft persons, from across the nation, were provided stalls free of cost to display and sell their traditional craft during the India International Fair 2016 at Pragati Maidan and subsequently, at Connaught Place in February, 2017. It was a major step in this direction. This has instilled a sense of confidence and pride among the minorities and helped to provide opportunity and market support to the artisans’ heritage (Hunar Ka Hausla). More than one lakh artisans and craft persons benefitted in terms of access to market and employment opportunities. The brand ‘Hunar Haat’ has become very popular and the ministry is in the process of organising similar such events nationwide with the motto, ‘Mada Hamari Manzil Aapki’ and ‘Vikas Bhi, Vishwas Bhi’.
Pradhan Mantri Jan Vikas Karyakram
Multi-Sectoral Development Programme (MSDP), to be renamed Pradhan Mantri Jan Vikas Karyakram, targeted at the minorities in backward districts even where they comprise 25 per cent of the population, and that 33 per cent to 40 per cent of that scheme’s fund should be spent for women. Earlier, at least 50 per cent of the population in the cluster of villages had to belong to the minority segment for the funds to be disbursed. Lowering of the population threshold would extend the scheme from 196 to 308 districts.
The government was keen about the empowerment of the minorities and that the funds marked for the minorities would be spent under the three headings of education, health and skill development. The government will spend Rs 3972 cr till 2019-20 under the scheme.
Education being such an important aspect in our country, what are some of the schemes of the Ministry of Minority Affairs for educational empowerment of the minority community?
As I was saying there are many scholarship schemes, including Pre-matric, post-matric and merit- cum- means scholarship schemes. Through these schemes we help to provide solutions to the financial problems that arise in the families. Secondly, we have an environment-oriented skill development programme like Seekho Kamao, Ustad, Begum Hazrat Mehal Scholarship, different skill development programmes. So all these programmes, along with education, give benefit of employment and self-employment opportunities. There are many artisans and crafts-persons among the minorities. We have separate schemes for them like Hunar Haat and Ustad Sammaan Samaroh, where these artists come and sell their handmade products so that they get some exposure and they can promote their items to earn money.
What measures are being taken for the minority aspirants of civil services examination? What are all the schemes being provided to them?
A record 131 candidates from the minority communities, including 51 Muslims, have been selected in the civil services examination 2017, an affirmation that the government had created an environment for their talent to flower. The ‘Nai Udaan’ and ‘Naya Savera’ schemes of the Ministry of Minority Affairs have been revised and the financial assistance for those qualifying the UPSC prelims has
been increased from Rs 50,000 to Rs 1 lakh.
Free Coaching and Allied Scheme (Naya savera) Under Nai Udaan
The scheme aims to empower the students belonging to minority communities and prepare them for competitive examinations so that their participation in government and private jobs improves. The scheme provides financial support for free coaching to notified minority students in select coaching institutions.
The courses for which the coaching will be imparted shall be as follows: (i) Competitive examinations conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), State Public Service Commissions, the Staff Selection Commission (SSC) and the various recruitment agencies like Railway Recruitment Boards (RRBs.), Banking Services Recruitment Boards etc for Group A, B and C posts.
Beneficiaries to whom financial assistance has been provided under ‘Nai Udaan’ scheme during the last three years and the current year:
Among all the schemes and programmes that have been launched till now, which one, according to you, is being the most praised and adopted by the people?
Every parent nowadays wants their child to be educated. I feel what is satisfactory is the 3Es formula we took up - Education, Employment and Empowerment -- which was successful. But, what we’ve observed so far is that our programme, Hunar Haat, has gained a lot of popularity, especially among the artisans and craftsmen. We brought up this programme so that we can once again awaken the beauty of art and hard work of the artists.
As you talked about Hunar Haat, once the exhibition is over, does the government provide any aids to the Muslim artisans?
Initially, when we started this programme, we invited 100-200 artisans from over the country. We give them everything free, including shops and stalls. Government basically gives market opportunities to these artists so that there is sale and they get orders also. Once, some artisans from Assam came with their work of Bedh and within two days all their products were sold out. So, they called for some more products, which again got over in 2-3 days. We try to give at least 25-30 per cent new artisans a chance to showcase their products.
Throughout the country, ‘Hunar Hubs’ would be also established for regularly holding of ‘Hunar Haat’ and other cultural activities for promotion of traditional art and craft of master artisans and craftsmen.
The Multi-Sectoral Development Programme focuses on districts with a concentration of minority. Are there any provisions made for districts that don’t fall under this category, but still have citizens belonging to minority groups?
Earlier, districts with a concentration of minority were extremely limited. We have increased them from 100 to 308, thus covering the entire nation. By lowering the population criterion, we have been able to benefit everyone, not just the minorities. Their growth is now in accordance with national development. In areas that don’t meet this criterion, we have considered a cluster of villages together. There is development in these areas as well.
You have schemes for educational as well as employment development. However, have you introduced any schemes to help minorities become socially accepted?
Tolerance is in our country’s DNA. I don’t believe that we are lacking in acceptance. Political agendas aside, tolerance and harmony are part of India’s culture. We shouldn’t base our opinions on a few isolated incidents. While they are horrific and should not be occurring, they do not represent the entire country’s mindset. If this were the case, terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda and IS would have been able to establish themselves in India as well. However, despite being successful all over the world, they were unable to turn us against each other. When they tried converting Indian youths in Kashmir, their families reported them. I feel that, in our country, the minority and majority have no problems co-existing.
What do you feel are the major issues minorities face in India? How have you overcome them?
I don’t believe the issues of the minority and majority are different. Every section faces problems related to unemployment, poverty and low literacy levels. Unfortunately, our political system has exploited these issues and created a divide for its own benefit. In the past four years, our ministry has aimed to incorporate the issues of minorities with those of the country. If we deal with them separately, we won’t be able to do them justice. We believe in inclusive development as it has garnered a much more positive response. For instance, the dropout rate for minority girls in schools was more than 75%. When we spoke to the various stakeholders, we realised that this was due to financial and social limitations. We therefore offered scholarships to 2,00,00,069 people, 65% of whom were girls. The dropout rate has now fallen to 45%. Our aim is to negate this completely.
How does it feel to be a minority minster in a majority party?
When you start to feel the difference between minority and the majority, you can never be comfortable. We are all Indians, people of one nation.
‘Saare jahan se accha hindustan humara, hum bulbule hai iske ye gulistan Humara’
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