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PM's latest sop: Muslim villages first

PM's latest sop: Muslim villages first

Author: Rajeev Ranjan Roy
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: February 14, 2007

Muslim majority villages set for facelift

Already facing flak for pursuing appeasement policy and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's 'Muslims first remark', the Centre is set to embark on another pro-minority scheme that could trigger fresh controversy.

The UPA Government has decided to identify as many as 200 villages with 100 per cent Muslim population to be developed as model villages countrywide under the Prime Minister's Adarsh Gram Yojana. According to well-placed sources in the Planning Commission, the new scheme is going to be one of the salient features of the UPA Government's budget for 2007-08. The Plan panel has approved Rs 10 crore as a token amount for the scheme that would be revised, depending on the demand.

The populist scheme may not stop at benefiting only villages with 100 per cent Muslim population. The Government is likely to consider watering down the criteria in the next financial year by extending the scheme to the villages with mix population and Muslim majority.

"At lot would depend upon how the State Governments respond to the scheme. They will have to send the detailed project reports (DPRs) for such villages to get the funds. Such DPRs would be evaluated at different levels before the Ministry for Minority Affairs grants approval to release the funds," a source in the Planning Commission said.

The sop in the form of 'model villages' comes in continuation of the Sahar Committee report on the uplift of Muslims and banking institutions being told to set aside a certain amount of loans to be disbursed among the country's major minority community.

The Government has taken precaution that the process of Muslim empowerment would not be done at the cost of the Scheduled Castes, accounting for 16.23 per cent of the total population. The Centre is gearing up to develop as many as 1857 villages with 100 per cent SC population in the first phase as the model villages. The total budget likely to be earmarked is Rs 1,200 crore.

The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment would be the nodal agency for monitoring the implementation of the scheme in the case of SC villages.

Such villages, once developed, will have 24x7 power and water supply, silky roads, well-furnished hospitals, schools, and all other basic amenities, which a normal village otherwise cannot dream to have even after 60 years of independence.

In this whole process of social empowerment of the Muslims and Dalits, the Centre seems to have lost sight of the plight of the poor belonging to the society's other backward classes, whose population is estimated to be over 42 per cent in the country. "There are no such proposals for the poor OBC dominated villages," the source said.

Though the Centre has not yet decided about the second phase of the Muslim villages to be developed as the PM model villages, there seems to be more in the pipeline for SC dominated villages. Around 4,000 villages with 90 to 100 per cent SC population would be covered in the second phase. In the third phase, as many as 31,149 SC villages with over 50 per cent population are likely to be covered.

Given the magnitude of the task the Centre is going to adopt, there is a proposal under serious consideration to engage corporates and the non-government organisations in developing the SC villages. "They could play a significant role in making the scheme successful, as it would be an extension of the affirmative action that the industry players have agreed to initiate for the weaker sections of society," a Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry official commented.

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