Lending a helping hand
Samarth Pathak Delhi
Sattar Khan is a tailor in Faridabad. He works out of a small two-room shop. He set up this modest tailoring unit in 2007 after the National Minorities Development and Finance Corporation (NMDFC) sanctioned him a loan of Rs 25,000. Sattar earns between Rs 18,000 and Rs 36,000 in a year. "Earlier, I was a tailor master but I didn't have a job. Today, I employ workers to assist me," he says.
Sattar is a beneficiary of one of the many schemes launched by the ministry of minority affairs (MoMA) to empower the minorities. And he is contented, even grateful to the government for "helping him survive" in the tough market. At a time when many communities in India, especially the Muslims, are struggling to eke out a living, Khan's story is a beacon of hope.
The Sachar Committee, established by the UPA government in 2005 to examine the status of minorities in India, brought to the fore discrepancies in official initiatives for development and uplifting the social condition of minorities. The objective of MoMA is to ensure holistic development of various minority communities in the country. The ministry has a variety of schemes and programmes for the needy and financially weak students, entrepreneurs and the unemployed among minorities.
The ministry offers scholarships for students and loans to set up business. Entrepreneurs and small-time businessmen from minority communities can opt for financial help. Through NMDFC, MoMA sanctions long-term, short-term and marginal loans to support businesses and provide employment to minorities.
With the MoMA loans, beneficiaries like Khan have set up businesses ranging from tea kiosks to grocery stores to restaurants and vehicle repair workshops.
With an eye to increase the access of minorities to education, the ministry launched the Means and Merit Scholarship Scheme in 2008. It is meant for meritorious students enrolled in professional and technical courses at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Around 20,000 scholarships have been sanctioned under this scheme. The scholarships have been divided among states on the basis of the percentage of minorities residing in that region. Scholarships are also available for students at pre-matric (class I to class X) and post-matric (class XI to PhD) level to fund their hostel and tuition fees.
Syed is a student at Jamia Millia Islamia. According to him, "Most of the Muslim students studying in postgraduate courses in Delhi come from small towns and rural areas. For them, these scholarships are a source of sustenance. Universities and NGOs also offer some scholarships. I hope the number of such scholarships increase."
All the schemes have 30 per cent reservation for girls with family income below Rs 2.5 lakh per annum. Says an official at the MoMA, "Many students belonging to the minorities are capable but do not get equal opportunities due to their weak financial status. We are trying to remove the monetary constraints for worthy students so that they can realise their potential."
One of the schemes of the ministry also provides students free coaching for technical and professional courses. In fact, some of the beneficiaries have got admitted to top Indian universities. "Applications and the implementation process are strictly scrutinised and monitored to do away with any flaws. This is an essential aspect of the prime minister's 15-point programme," said the MoMA official."