‘Education of minority children top on agenda’

Dr Shahid Akhtar, who was appointed the chairperson of Jharkhand state minority commission on January 9, 2013, had to face many challenges to make people aware of the commission. It deals with religious and linguistic minorities. A young and dynamic Akhtar talks to Kelly Kislaya about the challenges he faced since he joined, his work and plans.

What was the condition of the commission when you joined as the chairperson?

Before me there were three other chairpersons since the commission was constituted in 2001. But when I joined, the commission was almost defunct. There was a lot of communication gap between the commission and common man. Not many knew about the commission and its functions.

What did you do for the promotion and recognition of the commission?

The first thing I did was construct a website named http://www.jsmc.in. The next step was to establish a helpline number where people can call to complain about their grievances.

What are the common complaints you get on the helpline number?

Most of the complaints are against education institutions for not giving scholarships. Another common complaint is against the banks for not sanctioning loans to the minority communities. The problem is solved once we contact the institute or the bank.

What do you think is most important for the betterment of minorities?

I think education is the most important thing. Under right to education, there should be a school within a range of one kilometre from a locality where minorities dwell. If you look at Muslim colonies, there is not a single school in these localities. Among Muslims, 25% children do not take admission in schools and 25% drop out by the time they reach Class X. Also, you will notice that most of the child labourers belong to the minority communities.

Many a times the minority community children do not even come to know of the variousscholarship programmes of the government which are made only for them. What are you doing to spread the awareness about such programmes?

Yes, it is true. In fact, last year there was a quota of one lakh five thousand minority community students for the pre-matriculation scholarships. Only 65,000 applications were received and the officers who were in charge for giving scholarships rejected 20,000 forms. We have made sure that this time onwards transparency is maintained in the system and the applicant gets to know the reason for rejection. Also, we have hired NGOs who will organize workshops and seminars at every school in the state and inform students about the various schemes for the minority communities.

What are your plans for betterment of the minorities?

My focus is mainly on education. The central government has planned to establish six universities across the country for minority community children. I am trying to see that Jharkhand is one of the states where a university gets established. We will also try to upgrade the existing minority institutions in the state and make sure that they provide free education to 10% of the minority children. Also, I will try to establish minority women’s college and girls’ school at the district level.

Source :  http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ranchi/Education-of-minority-children-top-on-agenda/articleshow/21348412.cms


Modi govt denies scholarships to minority students

Cartoon by SahilOnline

Ahmedabad: The 2010-2011 final examinations are almost over and the admission process for the new academic year is in full swing. But the ambitious Muslim students who want to pursue higher studies are down in the dumps.

Six years have passed since the Central government under a Prime Minister’s scheme started offering pre-matriculation scholarships every year to hundreds boys and girls of minority communities in all states.

In view of the five-million population of Muslims in Gujarat, some 60,000 students are eligible for these scholarships but the land of the Mahatma is the only state which has steadfastly refused to implement the scheme, thus depriving thousands of school-children of the financial aid.

According to Gyasuddin Shaikh, a local Congress legislator, the Narendra Modi government does not want to chip in with its share of just 25 per cent of the total amount of the scholarships that comes to merely Rs. 12.5 million annually.

No wonder, even as Modi continued to make desperate attempts to woo Muslim leaders in Gujarat ahead of next year’s assembly elections, the Students Islamic Organisation of India (SIO) hurriedly called a meeting of Muslim leaders to discuss the injustice being done to minority students.

Shaikh, who participated in the debate, also expressed the lack of clarity in procedures governing implementation of various scholarship schemes, adding that it was time the quota for Muslim, Christian, Parsi and Sikh beneficiaries was increased substantially.

The speakers, who also included prominent social activists like Kalim Ansari (Gujarat SIO chief), Shafi Madni (Gujarat Jamaat-e-Islami chief) and Kasam Vora (CEO, Gujarat Sarvajanik Education Society), rightly called for a single-window clearance for scholarship applications from minorities and suggested setting up of a nodal agency for implementation of minority welfare schemes which can report directly to the Centre.

Muslim leaders have now decided to publish a scholarship guide and set up help centres in all the districts in Gujarat for the benefit of the student fraternity. But the Central government should also be equally blamed for not compelling the Modi regime to discharge its duty.

As Madni said, New Delhi was well aware of the ‘ill-intentions of the state administration which had failed to channelise the Centre’s 75 per cent share, adding that scholarships worth Rs100 million lapsed every year.

Come May 1, the SIO will launch an awareness campaign among the masses and also mobilise resources to influence the government machinery and the political parties for sincere implementation of the schemes intended for the minorities.

However, with assembly polls nearing, reliable government officials say Modi, who has been meeting more and more Muslim leaders of late, is contemplating reconsidering his earlier decision not to provide the pre-matriculation scholarships to minority students. 

According to them, Modi had taken a particular view three years ago at the National Development Council meeting in Delhi in December 2007, where he declared that giving scholarships to minority students was discriminatory against other backward sections of society.

A BJP leader said Modi wanted to change his anti-minority image but a shrewd strategist that he was, he wanted some assurance from minority leaders to support him and would announce his decision ‘at an opportune time’. Currently only those minority students get scholarship whose families earn less than Rs11,000 a year, a criterion which will make no student eligible

Source :http://www.sahilonline.org/english/news.php?cid=3&nid=10794

Minority scholarships: Call for single window clearance

Speakers at a regional meeting of the Students Islamic Organisation of India (SIO) have called for a single window clearance for scholarship applications from minorities.

SIO had held the meeting jointly with the Federation of Muslim Educational Institutions of India (Gujarat chapter).

The speakers suggested setting up of a nodal agency for implementation of minority welfare schemes and called for the agency to report directly to the Centre. Participants also expressed the lack of clarity in procedures governing implementation of various scholarship schemes. They suggested increase in the number of Muslim, Christian, Parsi and Sikh beneficiaries .

The meeting decided to publish a scholarship guide and set up help centres in all the districts in Gujarat for the benefit of the student fraternity. MLA Gyasuddin Shaikh , Gujarat Sarvajanik Education Society CEO Kasam Vora, Jamat-e-Islami Hind (Gujarat) president Shafi Madni, and Fazal Shaikh from ITI Gondal took part.

Source : http://www.indianexpress.com/news/Minority-scholarships–Call-for-single-window-clearance/774440/

Crores set aside for Gujarat’s minority students go unused

Rohit Bhan

Ahmedabad: Tahir Khan spent many school days dreaming of becoming an engineer. At 16, those dreams have crumbled. He dropped out of school two years ago because his father could no longer afford the fee of Rs. 200 a month. Tahir was a good student who scored over 70% in his subjects.

He now works at a garage in Ahmedabad, where he earns Rs. 80 a day. He tries not to think too much about the future. “I was keen on completing my studies… but my financial condition forced me out of school.”

It was to keep students like Tahir in school that the Union government set aside 10 crores in 2009 for minority students in Gujarat. Students who have not completed Class 10 and whose parents earn less than a lakh ever year are eligible for scholarships of Rs. 800 to Rs. 1500 a month. A total of 52,000 students could qualify.

But Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has informed the Gujarat Assembly that it has refused the money. “The scheme is to bring equity, as per the recommendation of the Sachar Commission,” says Human Resources Development Minister Kapil Sibal. “But as far as the Gujarat Chief Minister is concerned, we all know his attitude towards minorities.”
Sources say Mr Modi sees the Centre’s initiative as an attempt to woo minority voters in Gujarat.  On record, however, the government said that it would instead use a fund of its own for two crores that it created last year.

“In Gujarat, the Muslims are prosperous. Gujaratis have the highest per capita income in the country. The Gujarat Government does not look at them in terms of religion. The government cares about the entire population of Gujarat. For this no certificate is required from Kapil Sibal,” says the BJP’s spokesperson, Shahnawaz Hussain.

However, activists say that Mr Modi cannot be allowed to spurn the centre’s money – after all, its eight crores more than what he is offering.  And his own fund has not yet begun helping students.
So Mr Modi has been taken to court over the issue by organizations that work for minority rights.

“Why can’t the government publicise its new scheme, and how its money is being spent?” says Father Cedric Prakash, a human rights activist in Ahmedabad.

As politics get prioritised, thousands of students like Tahirare robbed of opportunities that could change their lives.


‘Govt will protect minorities’

GANDHINAGAR: The Gujarat government on Tuesday assured the House that it will protect the interests of minorities like other weaker sections of population of Gujarat. “It has been our policy to take care of minorities. We will do it in future as well,” state parliamentary affairs minister Dilip Sanghanideclared in the state assembly.
A senior minister in the Modi Cabinet known to be a long-time ally of the chief minister, Sanghani was replying to a point-of-order, raised in the state assembly by MLA representing Ahmedabad’s Shahpur constituency, Gyasuddin Sheikh, on the “untimely” removal of a written starred assembly question he had asked on the government’s refusal to pay Centre-funded scholarship to pre-matric minority students.
Opposition leader in the Gujarat state assembly Shaktisinh Gohil, supporting Sheikh’s plea, said, “This is for the first time in the history of Gujarat state assembly that an assembly question is being removed from the starred questionnaire book.” He failed to understand reason behind the removal, suggesting the state government was afraid of a discussion on why pre-matric students were not being given scholarship.
“By removing the question, we had no intention of undermining the interests of minorities. We stand by their rights, like other weaker sections of population such as dalits, tribals and OBCs. There is no question of taking a step backward,” said Sanghani.
Sanghani said, “The starred question was removed because on Monday we came to know that the matter had up in the Gujarat high court and is sub-judice. Hence, we recommended to assembly speaker Ganpat Vasava to remove the question.”