We are walking a tightrope because of obstinacy of Mr Narendra Modi’
Akash Bisht Delhi
Union minister for Minority Affairs and Corporate Affairs Salman Khursheed is a lawyer and a prolific writer. Salman Khursheed did his schooling at Delhi Public School and later went to St Stephen's College (Delhi University) and St Edmund Hall (Oxford) for higher studies. He also taught law at the Trinity College, London. As a lawyer he had once appeared for SIMI as its defence lawyer appealing against the 2002 ban. Khursheed had then said that he was satisfied that the case was not against the ethics of the profession. He said, "A party and the government too cannot pre-judge an organisation." He was among the few Congress leaders who had raised questions on the police version of the Batla House encounter.
He was phenomenal as the president of the Delhi Public School Society and helped the institution increase its tally from 14 to 75 schools in India and other countries. He also set up three satellite branches of DPS in the extremely backward district of Mewat in Haryana for the poor and disadvantaged. He took the audacious decision to add Urdu in DPS curriculum.
He was in political wilderness for many years and after winning the 2009 Lok Sabha elections from Farrukhabad, he was given the meaty portfolios as the Union minister of corporate and minority affairs. He took over the corporate ministry at the height of the Satyam scandal and has been trying to undo the damage. He has introduced new initiatives to bridge the widespread 'development gap' among the minorities. Salman Khursheed talks to Hardnews on his current job and his priorities
After you took over as the minister for minority affairs, it was being speculated in the media that you wanted more powers for your ministry. What sort of powers did you have in mind?
I never wanted more powers. What I had suggested was that I needed better coordination with other ministries to protect the interests of the minorities. There are five minority communities in the country and if members of a minority face any issues they come to me whether it concerns my department or not. I have to take care of their interests so I need better coordination for the betterment of the minorities. The question is how to intervene with the ministries. For example, if there are communal riots anywhere in the country. So the issue is how to coordinate with the home ministry. People from the minorities come to me and I have to ensure that their interests are not compromised. That's what I mean by better coordination.
Adding to this, the earmarked targets, funding for the minorities and 15 per cent of the assets stipulated under various schemes is coordinated here for the country. Hence, I am not asking for more power. Along, I am encouraging increased people's participation in decision making.
Will recommendations of the Sachar Committee ever be implemented?
Certainly, we have taken some of the suggestions that are being implemented across the country. Already we have selected 90 districts in the country where, at least, 25 per cent of the total population belongs to minority communities. These are the areas of high-minority concentration and we have allocated Rs 990 crore to be spent for multi-sectoral development programmes for the community in 90 minority-concentrated districts. The Central government will also spend Rs 2,500 crore in these 90 constituencies across the country in the next three years for development works. This should help in bridging the development deficit that has increased over the years in these areas. We have given 29 lakh scholarships for students of minority communities in the current fiscal of 2009-10. We are in the process of restructuring the National Minorities Development and Finance Corporation. Indeed, we are on the right track in implementing the Sachar Committee's recommendations.
Do you think that Muslims in Gujarat are being treated as second-class citizens?
I know the history of Gujarat and that is very complicated and distressing. All the same, every institution in the state is doing remarkably well to bring justice to the people who suffered or are suffering in Gujarat. Even the recent judgments made by the Supreme Court and Gujarat High Court in cases pertaining to Gujarat have been welcomed. But there are limits in democracy - there is no political accountability. Objectivity has been long forgotten, and extraordinary solutions are not possible in such a set up. However, time and democracy will bring the perpetrators to justice and make people accountable. Without provoking any hostility between communities, the Central government is ensuring that justice takes its own course.
I accept that we are walking a tightrope because of the obstinacy of Mr Narendra Modi and his colleagues.
Congress spokesperson, Manish Tewari, recently said that the Gujarat government is a man-eating government? Your reactions.
(Laughs.) Our party spokespersons have expressed far more flexibility in expressing their views as compared to ministers and people holding government positions. Indeed, Tewari spoke his mind based on deep agony and suffering that many people have gone through.
You had expressed your reservations on the Batla House encounter. So what are your reactions to the NHRC's clean chit to Delhi police and the Delhi High Court rejecting a judicial enquiry?
I am torn between two responsibilities. First, that of a human being and public figure and secondly, as part of the elected government. This is a federal structure and there is hardly any question of likes and dislikes. Amid this dichotomy, I can only choose to take a reasonable and transparent position. I can't say whether I am happy or unhappy with the findings of NHRC and the high court's order as I am bound to the constitutional authority.
Your views on fake encounters in Gujarat.
The law ministry is taking the findings of the magisterial enquiry initiated by the Gujarat High Court very seriously and if there is a need of direction then Supreme Court will pitch in. The manner in which the case is progressing is very encouraging but the subject should be left with the law minister.
What steps are being taken by your ministry to ensure the modernisation of madrasas?
Mr Kapil Sibal and I meet often to confabulate, consult and discuss. He has several aspirations but his idea is not to interfere in religious beliefs. He wants to offer them a platform and bring them in the ambit of institutional recognition. This is his main concern at this point. Some twists and turns can appear later but we can sort them out together. The need is to consult each other.
An amendment to the Companies Act is due to pass in the next Parliament session. Are there any provisions to prevent a Satyam-like fraud?
The draft of the New Companies Bill 2009 has various provisions that will help in detecting a Satyam-like fraud in its initial stages. There is a need to strengthen the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) so that such cases are never repeated again. Most points have been incorporated into the new bill and it has been referred to the Standing Committee of Parliament. It will take its decision and if need be we can incorporate some more suggestions.
What is being done to protect the interests of small investors from a Satyam-like fiasco?
We are trying to reach the point of shareholder democracy and the New Companies Bill will ensure full disclosure by respective companies. The point is to strengthen the democratic process - that means severe accountability for companies.
What is the government doing to protect independent directors who were ineffective in the course of the Satyam fraud?
We are specifying the role of directors and discussing it with various consulting firms. They are training directors and making them aware of their responsibilities. We are also ensuring that they should be only held accountable for what they know and not for anything else. We are taking a balanced view - this is the new approach.
How do you plan to check the role of auditors in the future to avert a Satyam-like situation?
We have got a report and are talking to different chartered accountants (CA). They have also given their independent inputs and in allegiance to this we will take some steps in the near future. Some CAs have even given their independent inputs and, we are still going through every detail of the report and shall reach a conclusion soon.