The Prime Minister’s New 15-Point Programme for the Welfare of Minorities is an initiative of the Government to bring the people of minority classes in the mainstream of development. (Read in Hindi)
This Programme for the Welfare of Minorities was announced in June, 2006 under the Ministry of Minority Affairs to ensure a more focused approach towards issues relating to the minorities. The purpose was to facilitate the formulation of overall policy and planning, coordination, evaluation and review of the regulatory framework and development programmes for the benefit of the minority communities.
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An important aim of the new programme is to ensure that the benefits of various government schemes for the underprivileged reach the disadvantaged sections of the minority communities. In order to ensure that the benefits of these schemes flow equitably to the minorities, the new programme envisages location of a certain proportion of development projects in minority concentration areas. It also provides that, wherever possible, 15 percent of targets and outlays under various schemes should be earmarked for the minorities.
The objectives of the programme are: Enhancing opportunities for education; Ensuring an equitable share for minorities in economic activities and employment, through existing and new schemes; enhanced credit support for self-employment and recruitment to State and Central Government jobs; Improving the living conditions of minorities by ensuring an appropriate share for them in infrastructure development schemes; and Prevention and control of communal disharmony and violence.
Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists and Zoroastrians (Parsis) have been notified as minority communities under Section 2 (c) of the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992.
Scholarship Schemes for Students of Minority Communities
Three scholarship schemes for minority communities namely, pre-matric scholarship from class-I to X, post-matric scholarship from class XI to PhD and merit-cum-means scholarship for technical and professional courses at under-graduate and post-graduate levels have been launched. It is felt that the scholarship will encourage parents from minority communities for educating their children. The scheme will form the foundation for their educational attainment and provide a level playing field in the competitive employment arena. Empowerment through education, which is one of the objectives of this scheme, has the potential to lead to uplift-ment of the socio economic conditions of the minority communities.
Scholarships are awarded to the students who have secured not less than 50% marks in the previous final examination and annual income of their parents/guardian from all sources does not exceed Rs.1 lakh and 2 lakh for school and higher education respectively. 30% of scholarships are earmarked for girl students. In case sufficient number of eligible girl students is not available, then the balance earmarked scholarships may be awarded to eligible boy students. As the number of scholarships for minorities available in a year is fixed and limited it is necessary to lay down preference for selection giving weightage to poverty rather than marks.
Another scheme of merit-cum-means based scholarship to students belonging to minority communities is to enable them to pursue professional and technical courses. Every year 20000 scholarships are distributed among the students of minority communities throughout the country.
Online Scholarship Management System (OSMS)
An Online Scholarship Management System (OSMS) for merit-cum-means based scholarship scheme has been introduced as a pilot project from the current financial year i.e. 2011-12 through the website of the Ministry of Minority Affairs Minorityaffairs.gov.in. Students may apply online. For this they should visit the website through Momascholarship.gov.in. The OSMS has proved to be useful, both from the user and the stakeholder point of view. This is the first time that in a Government Scholarship Scheme such a system has been introduced.
Significant Achievements in Minority Affairs
In pursuance with the recommendations of the National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities (NCRLM), the Government has carved out a sub-quota of 4.5% effective from 1st January, 2012 for backward classes of minorities from out of 27% quota of Other Backward Classes (OBCs). This reservation is available to those minority communities who are included in the Central list of OBC published by the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment from time to time. The reservation will be for the Central Government jobs and services and also admissions to Central Government educational institutions.
For educationally empowering minority communities, the Ministry of Minority Affairs within a short span of four years in the 11th Plan, have awarded more than One crore scholarships to minorities, out of which 50.34% has been awarded to girls students. Among other achievements during the year 2011-12, 29.23 lakh pre-matric scholarships were awarded of which 53.80% went to girl students; 4.38 lakh post-matric scholarships were awarded of which 55.65% went to girl students; and 29579 Merit-cum- Means scholarships were awarded of which 38.06% went to girl students.
Union Budget 2012-13 has provided major incentives for the uplift of students of minority communities. The outlay for scholarship schemes for the students belonging to the Minorities has been increased significantly. The Ministry of Minority Affairs has got an outlay of Rs.3,135 crore as Central Plan Outlay in the Union General Budget 2012-13. This is an increase of Rs.385 crore over the Revised Budget Estimates for the FY 2011-12 (which stands at Rs.2,750 crore).
Provision for Pre-Matric Scholarship has been increased from Rs.540 crore to Rs.810 crore; Post-Matric Scholarship gets Rs.450 crore – up from Rs.405 crore; Merit-cum-means Scholarship scheme gets Rs.198 crore - as against Rs.126 crore in the Revised Budget Estimates for the 2011-12. Provision for Maulana Azad National Fellowship for Minority students has been enhanced from Rs.47 crore to Rs.63 crore.
The Budget 2012-13 also provides Rs.4.50 crore for a new scheme to provide free cycles to girl students of class IX with the objective of retention of minority girl students from class IX onwards.
Another new scheme of Skill Development Initiatives has been provided Rs.18 crore in the Budget to allow urban and rural livelihoods to improve for inclusive growth by providing skill to the Minority communities who do not posses any, to allow them to gain employment.
Rs.45 crore each have been provided for Scheme for promotion of education in 100 Minority Concentration towns/cities; and Village Development Programme for 1,000 villages not covered under Minority Concentration Blocks/ Minority Concentration Districts.
The Ministry of Minority Affairs also gets Rs.19.70 crore as Non-Plan provision so that the total finances available with the Ministry for the FY 2012-13 are Rs.3,154.70 crore.
(Author is Media & Communication Officer, PIB at Chandigarh)