The political storm over the state government’s decision to offer financial aid to madrasas is an obvious instance of votebank politics, motivated more by the parties’ determination to consolidate their vote banks than to make concrete contributions to minority welfare. While the ruling parties Congress and NCP view it as an effort to reach out to an extended vote bank, parties in the Opposition such as BJP and Shiv Sena have attacked it as a communal decision this too is an obvious attempt to appease and consolidate their pro-majority, (read pro-Hindu) political strategy.
No prizes for guessing why the Congress-led government took the decision, with the Lok Sabha elections just a few months away. The decision is a thinly masked political gimmick, rather than being motivated by compassion for the community. The fact that the state has announced a Rs 10-crore programme when it has just Rs 2.5 crore set aside for the current fiscal, makes this clear. The Congress-led Democratic Front government justified its decision by citing a similar programme implemented by the Congress-led UPA government at the centre, known as the Scheme for Providing Quality Education in Madrasas (SPQEM). However, this does not explain why they chose to implement it now, when the UPA government started it in 2008.
There are 1,889 madrasas in the state with 1,47,995 students on their rolls, but the state doesn’t speak of making efforts to merge them with other educational institutions to bring them into mainstream. It will be interesting to see how many madrasas would prefer to get registered with the authorities, submitting financial audit reports of the last three years, or making an effort to fulfill the conditions that will qualify them for government grants.
The state needs ingenuity, and not political gimmicks to address issues plaguing the minority. A majority of the community struggles to improve its quality of life, with most ending up impoverished. This is attributed to illiteracy, larger families, fewer opportunities, and even the reluctance to adapt and evolve. While we cannot change history, the present presents opportunities for change. The massive manpower available in the country is an asset, which, if harnessed properly, can help shape the destiny of our nation. But Congress, the party with the longest tenure in the government, has always used the minority card to improve its electoral prospects.
The issues plaguing the minority community started assuming importance only after it was became obvious that frequent, disruptive and catastrophic events such as bomb blasts were causing a collapse of society in general and the nation in particular. Hence, in the last few years, concerted efforts have been made to improve the living conditions of minorities, and prevent the youth from taking extreme steps to escape poverty, lack of opportunities and frustration. Several programmes were started. But in the absence of any effort to draw youths towards that path of progress, results have been few and far between.
There is no denying that lack of sincerity has only led to polarisation of political parties over this issue. It has also fuelled a scenario where leaders are seen more as messiahs of their particular communities and not of society at large. This alienation is growing further, with leaders from particular communities becoming rivals only to get lucrative positions in the government. A number of scams related to wakf lands corroborate this fact. The internal politics have reached such a level that the Congress government in the state has not issued a notification to appoint its Rajya Sabha member Hussain Dalwai as member of the state wakf board for almost a year.
The body has become highly controversial, ever since allegations of corruption were leveled against it. Hope floats yet. The educated youngsters have the potential and the ability to change the scenario by shedding their communal identities and becoming national citizens instead.
The writer is Political Editor, MiD DAY