NEW DELHI — Muslim groups have slammed the Narendra Modi government for proposing a cut of 38% in the 2023-24 budget allocated for minorities calling it an “onslaught on the dignity of minorities” and a “step-motherly treatment”.
In a statement on Thursday, the Students Islamic Organisation of India (SIO) said the budget unveiled on Wednesday displays bigotry and injustice towards minorities.
“There was a massive cut of funds in merit-cum means scholarships from Rs 365 to 44 crores, showing a callous attitude even after dropping the pre-metric and (Maulana Azad National Fellowship) MANF scholarships. This is an onslaught on education and the dignity of minorities,” the SIO said.
“An allocation of Rs 900 crores for pre-metric scholarships in the previous budget and then cancelling them demonstrates a bias against minorities. The whopping cut of funds to madrassas from previous budgets shows the clear agenda of the government towards minorities and their upliftment in terms of education,” Dr. Roshan Mohiddin, National Secretary of the SIO, said in a statement.
He said the budget for skill development programmes like USTTAD and Nai Manzil declined from crores to a mere Rs 10 lakh. The budget allocated for research programmes and free coaching for minorities also saw a drop of 50% from the previous budget, he said. “It shows the apathetic behaviour of the government,” he said.
“SIO believes that the minority education budget is a clear injustice to minorities and that the central government has taken no stand for its upliftment. This myopic vision doesn’t bode well for the equitable development of the country,” said Mohiddin.
The Welfare Party of India (WPI) also expressed disappointment at the cuts in the budget. In a statement, SQR Ilyas, the party’s national President, called it “step-motherly treatment” accorded to the minorities.
“If a section of society is excluded, the nation’s development is grossly impacted,” he said.
He noted that a major share in the decline was pre-matric scholarship which fell from Rs 1,425 crore in 2022-23 to Rs 433 crore in 2023-24. The budgetary allocation for these schemes related to the minorities that provided empowerment components were also slashed which included post-matric scholarship, merit cum means, free coaching, MANF scholarship, USTAD scheme for Skill development, Nai Manzil and the scheme for madrassa improvement.
Commenting on the overall budget, Ilyas said: “Budget is a financial statement to ensure that there is equitable distribution of resources and no one is left behind in the path of development. The Oxfam report states that the richest one per cent in India now own more than 40 per cent of the country’s total wealth.”
“It is cruel and unfair,” he said and demanded the imposition of wealth tax on the super-rich to check the growing disparity between the rich and the poor.
According to SIO, the budget for education neglects to address the critical issues of equitable development and fails to meet the needs of marginalised communities. It also fails to fulfil the significant gaps in knowledge created by the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused extended school and college closures, making the past few years challenging for students across the nation.