Section 2(c) mentioned in the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992 lists communities of Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists and Zoroastrians (Parsi). The share of minorities in the whole population is at 19.3% in India. Muslims comprise the highest share I.e. 14.2%, followed by Christians (2.3%), Sikhs (1.7%), Buddhists (0.7%), Jain (0.4%) and Parsis (0.006%). There is also a procedure to determine Minority Concentration Districts, Blocks and Towns based on both inhabitants data and backwardness parameters based on Census 2001. National Sample Survey (NSS) 61st, 66th and 68th rounds data have revealed that the proportion of the Muslim population in India has increased largely. It is also observed that Muslims had the greatest number of population among 0-14 years of age. The 68th round of NSS also mapped the allocation of the population of minorities across States. Lakshadweep, followed by Jammu hosts the majority of the Muslim community in India. Nagaland, Mizoram, and Meghalaya are the states with the most Christian people in India. Punjab had the most number of people belonging to the Sikh community in India. The maximum number of people preaching Jainism live in Delhi. On the other hand, Sikkim hosts the most number of Buddhists in India. Gujarat, followed by Maharashtra has the highest number of people belonging to the Parsee community.
Constitutional and legal provisions in place for the empowerment of Minorities The constitution of India mentions but not defines the term minorities. The Constitution has specific provisions for the setting up of a separate National Commission for SCs, STs, and the Backward Classes. The constitutional recognition of these bodies adds weight to their existence. The National Commission for Minority Act, 1992 considers such sections as minorities as listed by the government. The provision in the preamble also reflects the presence of ideals that preserve the importance of minorities in India. The inclusion of words such as Secular; equality of status and opportunity and; liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship marks concern for the minorities in independent India. Part 3 of the Indian Constitution incorporates specific provisions for the welfare of minorities. These are as follows-
- Article 29– provisions for the preservation of distinct language, script or culture. It applies to any citizen in India. It also prohibits the denial of admission to any citizen to any educational institution on grounds of religion, race, caste, language or any of them.
- Article 30- gives the right to minorities to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.
- Article 14 emphasizes ushering in the spirit of equality before the law and equal protection of laws.
- Article 15 profits discrimination on grounds only of religion, region, caste, sec or place of birth.
- Article 16 gives equality of opportunity in matters of public employment to all. ● Article 17 forbids the practice of untouchability in the country.
- Article 350 A emphasizes the effort by the state and local authorities to equip children belonging to linguistic minority groups with facilities for instructions in their mother tongue.
- Article 350 B has a provision for the appointment of a Special Officer for Linguistic Minorities by the President of India. The post is called to report on the safeguards for linguistic minorities under the Constitution of India.
- Article 38 in Part 4 of the constitution under the title of Directive Principle of State Policy (DPSP) makes it an obligation to the state to eliminate inequalities in status, facilities and opportunities
- Article 46 of the DPSP calls for the promotion of the economic and educational interests of the weaker sections.
- Fundamental duties provided in Article 51A of the constitution also speak for the promotion of harmony and common brotherhood among all the citizens of the country. ● S.R. Bommai case and in several other judgments, the apex court has held that the principle of Secularism comes in the ambit of the Basic structure of the Constitution and hence, can’t be amended under invoking Article 368 of the Indian Constitution. ● Protection of Civil Rights (PoCR) Act, 1955, and the SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 are some of the legislations intended to ensure the welfare of the minority sections of society.
- Indian Penal Code (IPC) prohibits the use of discriminatory practices and attitudes towards minorities.
Minorities in India are often linked with backwardness due to their lesser share in the population. As per several reports, minorities were found to have lower job opportunities, lesser educational prospects, and lack of access to healthcare. The poverty levels are on the higher side among minorities. The Government of India (GoI) has taken several efforts to ameliorate the conditions of minorities in India to ensure the fair development of minorities. GoI made a distinct Ministry of Minorities (M/o MA) in 2006 formed from the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (M/o SJ &E). The GoI also launched the Prime Minister’s Fifteen Point programme for the welfare of minorities in 2006. The idea is to ensure a fair stake of minorities in economic activities and employment via given and fresh schemes. To further the aim of furnishing educational opportunities and skilling to the younger population among the minorities, the Government has ventured on a path to evolve a new endeavor I.e. Nai Manzil (new horizons).
The socio-economic situation of minorities has been elaborately dealt with in the reports of committees specifically constituted for this purpose. For illustration, the Justice Sachar Committee report that came in 2006 and all the recommendations were comprehensively discussed by the ministries and departments. It stated that Muslims are underrepresented in the bureaucracy and are lagging.
Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities (National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities) was formulated by the government in 2004 to indicate standards for identifying socially and financially backward people among minorities among other measures. The NSS 68th round also noted that minorities have smaller labour market developments corresponding to that at the national level. Their chances of having a place in the formal sector are slim, more unemployment rate, and a lack of opportunities to achieve their full potential.
There are several schemes for the benefit of minorities in India
Governments at the central and state levels have committed themselves to the idea of skill development, enhancing educational and job opportunities, and handing over scholarship schemes to minorities.
The GoI prepared a Multi-Sectoral Development Program (MsDP) in accordance with the reviews of the Sachar committee report. It was embarked on in 90 Minority Concentration districts to check for the development deficits prevailing in those areas. The Ministry of Minority Affairs (M/o MA) also offers three types of scholarship schemes to minorities: Pre-Matric, Post-Matric and Merit cum means scholarship. The ministry also provides free coaching to students to improve their chances of getting better representation in government jobs. The Maulana Azad Education Foundation also launched schemes in the interest of minorities and vulnerable sections of society.
Nai Roshni and Nai Udaan are also two schemes launched for the welfare of minorities. The Nai Roshni scheme aims at empowering leaders among minorities to take up leadership roles. On the other hand, Nai Udaan is a support for those students who clear the UPSC /SSS/ Public Services examinations’ preliminary stage. The objective is to better the representation of those belonging to minority sections in the services.
All these initiatives assist in enabling people originating from minority sections to take up leadership roles. They better understand the concerns of their section and hence, help in carving out a suitable policy.
India aims to fill in the globe as the ‘Vishwa Guru’ and it is only possible if all the sections of the society are included in the mainstream and no one is left behind.