The UPA had initiated affirmative action under the Common Minimum Programme and the Prime Minister's 15-point programme for the welfare of minorities, especially in view of the key recommendations made by the Sachar Committee to remove the educational backwardness of minorities, particularly Muslims.
Besides the schemes taken up by ministry of minority affairs (MoMA), the ministry of human resource development (MHRD) has taken steps for promotion of education among minorities. The MHRD started collecting data on educational indicators of Muslims since 2006-07 in a bid to track their educational development. The districts with more than 20 per cent Muslim population were identified for special attention under different programmes of MHRD. With the enactment of Right to Education Act, 2009, guaranteeing elementary education to all children between the ages of 6 to 14 years, the government has assured basic elementary education to each and every child, irrespective of caste, religion, gender and economic status.
The achievements under various schemes for promotion of education of minorities have been quite encouraging. There has been consistent increase in the enrolment of Muslim children at elementary level. The enrolment of Muslim children as a percentage of total enrolment of all communities has increased from 9.4 per cent in 2006-07 to 14.2 per cent in 2012-13 at primary level and from 7.3 per cent to 12.1 per cent at upper primary level. Enrolment of Muslim students in primary education has exceeded the share of Muslims in the country's population. Another welcome feature is that more girls are studying in schools.
A total of 15 per cent of the outlay under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) is targeted for minority concentration districts (MCD)/Areas to achieve the goal of universalisation of elementary education, to meet infrastructure gaps for schools, classrooms and teachers and to provide access by opening new schools. Other initiatives, which also benefit minorities, especially Muslims, include the scheme for providing quality education in madrassas (SPQEM), scheme for infrastructure development in minority institutions (IDMI), Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalalaya Scheme (JNV), opening of girls hostels, model schools under Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA), midday meal scheme, Jan Shikshan Sansthan (JSS), establishment of model degree colleges, women hostels and polytechnics in MCDs.
Setting up of block institutes of teacher education, appointment of language teachers, providing modern education to madrassas under National Institute of Open Schooling and the easing of norms for affiliation of minority educational institutions are some of the important initiatives of MHRD.
In addition to universal access, the SSA programme strives to reach out to children who continue to study in madrassas to provide them formal education. Madrassas have been provided with funds under the special training component of SSA to cover children who are out of school. Free textbooks have been provided to 17.3 lakh students in madrassas under SSA. Also, 40,000 madrassa teachers have been provided with in-service training and 8,235 madrassas have been given school grants under SSA. Under SPQEM, 9,905 Madarsas with 23,146 teachers have been supported.
Greater focus to the needs of minorities is accorded in the 12th Five Year Plan (2012-17), with SSA and RMSA as main motivators for social inclusion in the field of education. As many as 270 model schools have been approved in minority concentrated blocks. Another 378 JNVs are being set up with priority to MCDs. In all, 196 JNVs would be opened in Special Category Districts, including all MCDs.
In the field of higher education, ongoing schemes such as model degree colleges, polytechnics, women hostels and skill development programmes are being implemented in the MCDs. Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) centres have been established in Mallapuram in Kerala, Murshidabad in West Bengal and Kishanganj in Bihar. New institutions are being started in unserved areas under Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA).
Recently, a new initiative-- 'Maulana Azad Taleem-e-Balighan'-- has been launched to impart functional literacy, basic education, vocational skill development and continuing education to cover around one crore Muslim adults in the age-group of 15 years and above with an outlay of Rs. 600 crore during the 12th Plan period.
National monitoring committee for minorities education (NMCME) has been constituted to oversee measures for educational advancement of minorities.
MHRD has planned new schemes, including a scheme on the lines of 'HUNAR' for skill development among 9.2 lakh minority girls in the age-group of 14 plus with an outlay of Rs 978 crore, and establishment of Educational Hubs by co-locating KGBVs, girls and women hostels, degree colleges in selected towns, and districts, which are educationally backward and have substantial Muslim concentration.
(The writer is a member of legislative council and a journalist)