'UPA inclusion mantra long way off'

Zia Haq

New Delhi, Nov. 12 -- Economist Abusaleh Shariff, who served on the 2004 Sachar panel for minorities, is set to unveil a clutch of new findings on minorities early next year which suggest progress has been dead slow in some areas.

The findings could punch a few holes in the UPA government's handling of some ambitious schemes for minorities.

Shariff, now chief scholar at the Washington-based US-India Policy Institute, has suggested a must-do checklist to new minority affairs minister K Rahman Khan in a letter he recently wrote.

This includes a "diversity index" to promote employment but one which has not been put in place yet.

The Sachar Commission found India's largest minority, Muslims, faring poorly on key socio-economic indicators, prompting a flurry of programmes from the Congress-led government.

Although "strict compliance" of these programmes can deliver rapid gains, Shariff said slippages, such as poor spending by states, had ensured that minorities were not robustly benefiting.

In education, states were not able to spend even one-third of the budgetary allocation during the previous five years, or the 11th Plan.

New research anchored by Shariff and his team, provisional versions of which HT has accessed, takes a post-Sachar look and suggests that the government's minority welfare agenda could be suffering from inadequate outreach.

The main philosophy behind the Sachar report, according to Shariff, was to enable minorities to gain long-term social and economic access.

"However, some of the initiatives... are aimed at providing immediate benefit," Shariff said.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.