The Minority Affairs Ministry successfully implemented the government’s mantra of “development without discrimination and empowerment without appeasement” in 2018, Union minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi has said, asserting that a sense of confidence has been created among minorities.
Mr Naqvi said the year was a special one for the ministry with the annual Haj being a “landmark” as for the first time women without ‘Mehram’ or male companion went on the pilgrimage.
Also, for the first time, Haj was performed without subsidy and under the new Haj policy, he said.
“The Minority Affairs Ministry was considered a part-time ministry till now. But if you see the year gone by, it has been one of reform, transform and perform,” Naqvi told PTI.
Through reform, transform and perform, development with dignity and empowerment without appeasement has been successfully implemented, he said.
Talking about the development schemes undertaken by his ministry, Naqvi said earlier under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Vikas Programme, only 90 districts were covered, but now 308 districts have been brought under it.
“We have also given scholarships to a record number of students –3,83,00,000. Out of these 60 per cent students are girls,” he said.
“We also ran a campaign on a large scale which helped in bringing down the dropout rate among girls from 70 per cent 40-41 per cent because of educational empowerment,” the minister said.
As far as Haj is concerned, it was a “landmark” Haj this year and despite the removal of the subsidy, the expenses of the pilgrimage were not allowed to go up, he said.
Looking ahead to the pilgrimage in 2019, the minister said those who will be going for Haj will now pay just 5 per cent GST on airfare after the change recently.
“There will be a saving of more than Rs. 112 crore due to this,” he added.
The decision to allow women to perform Haj without Mehram and lifting of an earlier “ban” benefited a lot of women, he said, adding that it was a “big reform” of the government.
This year, more than 3,000 applications have come from women who wish to go for Haj without Mehram and all of them will be exempted from the lottery system, he said.
For the last three years, the Haj quota has been increasing as a result of the good relations Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the government has with the Saudi Arabian government, Mr Naqvi said.
He said the ministry also took steps to remove the confusion and contradiction over the Waqf lease rule as it was being misused.
“A committee was formed for making a new Waqf rule. That committee has completed its work and will submit its report soon. This is also a big reform move,” the minister said.
Highlighting the ministry’s role in job creation, Naqvi said organising of ‘Hunar Haats’ for craftsmen was a “landmark achievement” as it helped in providing impetus to the traditional crafts.
“We have been successful in creating a sense of confidence among minorities,” Mr Naqvi said.
The Ministry of Minority Affairs, in a statement, said it took a number of initiatives in 2018 for the welfare of minorities in areas such as skill development, education, Haj, Waqf, Pradhanmantri Jan Vikas Karykram (earlier Multi Sectoral Development Programme), secularism and empowerment, among others.
The ministry also implemented schemes for students belonging to minority communities, including providing free coaching to them for admission in technical and professional courses, and competitive examinations, it said.
The ministry also launched a training programme to link madarsa teachers with the mainstream education system.