New Delhi: The Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council (NAC) has asked the government to focus on welfare of minorities in the 12th Five Year Plan (2012-13 to 2016-17), a recommendation that comes ahead of the Assembly polls in five states in January-February.
The move follows the government`s December 2011 move to approve a 4.5 percent sub-quota for minorities within the existing 27.5 percent quota for the other backward classes in central jobs and admission to central educational institutions.
Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Manipur, Goa and Uttarakhand will elect new Assemblies in the upcoming polls.
India`s designated religious minorities, as per the National Commission for Minorities Act 1992, constitute about 18.4 percent of the total population and number around 189.5 million according to Census 2001.
The largest among these, the Muslims, form 72.8 percent of the minority population. They form around 13.4 percent of the total population and number nearly 140 million.
In its latest recommendation to the central government, the advisory body said providing basic services like drinking water and sanitation in all minority settlements should be obligatory for the government.
"This assurance of basic services should be demand-driven, in that the appropriate government would be obliged to provide these services, on demand from any settlement, within a specified time frame, using central funds," said the NAC communication.
To ensure that public money was utilised properly, the advisory body asked the government to operationalise an assessment and monitoring agency under the Planning Commission urgently, which will include experts, academics and civil society members.
Citing the Justice Rajinder Sachar panel report, which examined the social condition of Muslims and was tabled in Parliament in 2006, the NAC noted these communities suffer from socio-economic deprivation and gross inequality.
The report said there was considerable exclusion of the largest minority (Muslims) from India`s progress on key development indicators since independence.
Observing that previous five Plans were not able to intervene adequately in development of religious minorities, mainly due to absence of demographic data, the NAC asked the government to collect such records.
Offering solutions to the problem, the NAC suggested the scale of government interventions must be large enough to make a dent into the numbers of the marginalised.
Noting that the design and implementation structures of the programmes do not often target minority settlements and people directly and effectively, the NAC suggested mandatory social audits of the multi-sectoral development programmes of the Minorities Welfare Ministry and the Prime Minister`s new 15-point programme for their uplift.