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State of Educational Empowerment for Religious Minorities in India

  • 08 Sep 2023
  • 8 min read

For Prelims: Constitutional Provisions Related to Religious Minorities, Sachar Committee report, Naya Savera, Nai Udaan

For Mains: Major Challenges Related to Religious Minorities, Welfare Schemes for Educational Empowerment of Minorities

Source: TH

Why in News? 

Recently, the status of educational empowerment schemes for religious minorities in India has come under scrutiny. 

  • These programs were initially designed to bridge the educational gap and promote inclusivity among different religious communities in the country. 
  • However, there have been significant changes and controversies surrounding these schemes, leading to concerns about their impact on minority communities.

What is the Status of Educational Empowerment Schemes for Religious Minorities in India? 

  • About
    • Religious minorities in India, including Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, and Zoroastrians, constitute a substantial portion of the population, making up approximately 20%. 
      • The Sachar Committee's report in 2006 highlighted these disparities, placing Muslims behind several other groups in development indicators.
    • To address the disparities, the government established the Ministry of Minority Affairs in 2006, focusing on educational empowerment, economic development, infrastructure improvement, and special needs of religious minorities.
      • Scholarships for minority students became a pivotal component of this initiative, aimed at providing financial assistance and access to quality education.
  • Curent Status of Welfare Schemes for Educational Empowerment of Minorities:  
    • Pre-Matric Scholarship Scheme: Initially awarded to minority students from class 1 to 10. Later, discontinued for classes 1 to 8, only covering class 9 and 10 in its revised form.
    • Post-Matric Scholarship Scheme: For students of class 11 and above (till Ph.D.). Funds increased from Rs 515 crore to Rs 1,065 crore in 2023-24. 
    • Merit-cum-Means based Scholarship Scheme: Targeted professional and technical courses at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. However, it faced a significant reduction in funds in 2023-24.
    • Maulana Azad National Fellowship (MANF): Provided financial assistance to research scholars pursuing M.Phil and Ph.D. However, it was discontinued in 2022.
    • Padho Pardesh: Provided an interest subsidy on education loans for overseas studies. However, it was discontinued from 2022-23.
    • Begum Hazrat Mahal National Scholarship: Scholarship for meritorious girls for higher secondary education. However, no funds have been allocated in 2023-24.
    • Naya Savera: Provided free coaching to minority students for competitive exams. However, it was discontinued in 2023-24.
    • Nai Udaan: Supported minority students preparing for various examinations. However, no funds have been allocated in 2023-24.
    • Scheme for Providing Education to Madrasas and Minorities (SPEMM): Aimed at modernizing madrasa education. Allocation reduced in 2023-24.

Note: The budget allocation for the Ministry of Minority Affairs saw a drastic reduction, with a 38% decrease for the fiscal year 2023-24 compared to the 2022-23. This cut in funding has had a direct impact on the implementation of various programs, with underutilization of funds being a common trend.

What are the Constitutional Provisions Related to Religious Minorities? 

  • Article 25: It guarantees freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion to all persons.
  • Article 26: It grants every religious denomination or section thereof the right to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes, and to manage its own affairs in matters of religion.
  • Article 29: It provides that any section of the citizens residing in any part of India having a distinct language, script or culture of its own, shall have the right to conserve the same.
  • Article 30: Under the article, all minorities shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.

Note: The term "minority" is not defined in the Indian Constitution. However, the Constitution recognizes only religious and linguistic minorities.

What are the Other Major Challenges Related to Religious Minorities?

  • Communal Violence: One significant challenge is the occurrence of communal violence, where conflicts erupt along religious lines. 
    • These incidents result in loss of life, property damage, and displacement of minority communities. 
    • This challenge is rooted in factors like political manipulation, economic disparities, and historical tensions that need careful examination.
  • Intersectional Discrimination: Beyond religious discrimination, religious minorities, especially women, may face intersectional discrimination. 
  • Social Isolation: Religious ghettoization, where minority communities cluster in specific neighborhoods, impacts their social integration and economic opportunities.
  • Cyberbullying and Online Harassment: The rise of cyberbullying and online harassment to target religious minority individuals or groups,is impacting their online safety and mental well-being.

Way Forward

  • Leverage Public-Private Partnerships: Foster collaborations between the government, private sector, and non-profit organizations to supplement funding and resources for minority education initiatives. 
    • This can help offset budget cuts and ensure sustained support for these schemes.
  • Digital Literacy Programs: Implement digital literacy programs tailored for religious minority communities to ensure they are not left behind in the digital age. This can enhance access to information and opportunities.
  • Local Level Initiatives: Empower local communities to take the lead in promoting interfaith dialogue and cooperation. Grassroots initiatives can have a significant impact in building trust and social cohesion.
    • There is a need to establish community-based conflict resolution centers that specialize in addressing interfaith and inter-community disputes. 
    • These centers can provide mediation and counseling services.
  • Traditional Knowledge Preservation: Recognize and preserve traditional knowledge systems and practices of religious minority communities. This can be done through digital documentation and funding for cultural preservation projects.
  • Social Impact Assessment and Investment: There is a need to conduct time bound social impact assessment and encourage social impact investment in religious minority-owned businesses and startups. This can help create economic independence and reduce disparities.

UPSC Civil Services Examination, Previous Year Questions (PYQs)

Prelims

Q. In India, if a religious sect/community is given the status of a national minority, what special advantages it is entitled to? (2011)

  1. It can establish and administer exclusive educational institutions.
  2. The President of India automatically nominates a representative of the community to Lok Sabha.
  3. It can derive benefits from the Prime Minister’s 15-Point Programme.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

Ans: c

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