Constitutional Provisions for the Protection of Minorities:
Constitutional provisions that are made for protecting the interests of the minorities can be classified into two groups: (a) General provisions, and (b) Specific provisions.
a) General Provisions:
The Constitution of India treats the minorities on par with the other people. Article 14 of the Constitution assures them equality before law, Article 15 prohibits discriminatory treatment, Article 16 provides for equal employment opportunities in the public sector, Article 29(2) provides for equality of educational opportunities, Article 325 and 326 provide for right to universal adult franchise to all, including the minorities and Article 44 makes provision for common civil code.
b) Specific Provisions:
Articles 29 and 30 of the Constitution provide protection to the linguistic, educational and cultural rights of the minorities. Article 29 states that any community in India is entitled to have and preserve its own specific language, script or culture Article 30 declares (a) that all minorities in India are having constitutional right to establish and run their own educational institutions, (b) it also states that the State while giving grants shall not discriminate against any institution just because it belongs to a linguistic or religious minority, (c) Articles 331 and 333 also make provisions to give protection to the interests of the Anglo-Indian communities.
Fifteen Point Programme For the Welfare of the Minorities:
In 1985, the then Government of India, under the directions of the Prime Minister Smt. Indira Gandhi, framed a 15 point programme to promote the welfare of the minorities. The programme consists of the following recommendations and activities.
Protection against Communal Riots:
1. In areas identified as sensitive from the religious point of view, very efficient, honest and strict police officers known for their secular outlook should be appointed so that better protection could be given to the minorities.
2. Police officers and district collectors who render an impartial and an efficient service in controlling communal riots must be felicitated.
3. Stringent legal action must be taken against those who instigate communal riots and violence.
4. Separate courts to be established to investigate into the criminal cases connected with communal riots.
5. Immediate legal steps to be taken to give reliefs to those affected by communal riots, they must also be rehabilitated at the earliest.
6. Mass media such as radio and T.V. etc., must assist the establishment in reviving communal harmony, peace and mutual understanding in the riot-hit areas.
7. News papers and periodicals are specifically requested not to disturb the communal harmony of an area through their prejudiced articles.
Appointment in State and Central Services:
8. The States are to be instructed to take extra care regarding the minorities in making appointments for the police department.
9. The Central Govt, must also have the same stand while making appointments to Central Reserve Police-force.
10. The railways, nationalised banks and industries in the public sector do provide employment opportunities to a large number people. These establishments should pay proper attention to the employment needs of the minorities.
11. Special training classes should be held in the minority institutions to the candidates belonging to the minority communities, so that they improve their qualities in competing for competitive examinations. Such training may help them to become successful in getting jobs.
12. Special encouragement must be given to open technical institutions such as ITI, polytechnics and engineering colleges in the areas in which the minorities are found in a large number.
13. In the various developmental programmes and projects of the Government including the 20 point programme, care should be taken to see that the minority people are also able to obtain their due share in these programmes.
14. In addition to the above mentioned general matters, many local issues such as Wakfs properties, cremation ground encroachment disputes, conversion cases, etc. may create lot of tensions. If these are not settled immediately and amicably they may turn out to be big problems tomorrow. Local administrations must pay proper attention to these.
15. Problems confronting the minority groups must be frequently dealt with and settled to their satisfaction. This may help them to develop confidence in the establishment. A separate wing in the Home Department could be created to look into the grievances of the minority groups. The Central and the State Governments frequently meet to discuss the various aspects of the above mentioned 15 point programme. They also take suitable decisions to assure better protection to the minorities. The Central Cabinet Committee which met on Jan. 30th 1990 decided to take some short-term measures to promote the welfare of the minorities. Some of these decisions areas follow.
a) The Cabinet Committee decided to establish special courts in the areas which are susceptible to frequent communal riots, to look into criminal cases and settle them at the earliest. It also decided to establish such courts in Delhi and Meerut.
b) The Committee decided to increase the compensation amount payable to the victims of communal riots from Rs. 20,000 to 50,000 in case of death or permanent disability.
c) It was also decided to pay a monthly allowance of Rs. 500/- to the riot-hit widows with the lowest income.
The Govt, of India, that is, the first non-Congress Government had set up a “Minorities Commission for Minorities” in January 1978 to evaluate the working of the various safeguards in the Constitution for the protection of religious minorities and to make recommendations to ensure effective implementation of enforcement of all the safeguards and laws. It appointed M.R. Masani as its president and justice M.R. A. Ansari and Prof. V.N. John as its members. The Commission was assigned the following tasks.
1. The commission was expected to assess the implementation of the various laws, policies and programmes of the Union and the State Governments towards minority. It was also asked toreport on the working of the various provisions of the Constitution towards the welfare of the minorities.
2. It was asked to give suggestions regarding the effective implementation of the protective measures.
3. The Commission was assigned the task of reviewing the Central and State Governments’ policies towards the minorities.
4. To review the complaints lodged with it relating to the abridgement of the rights and protection of the minorities.
5. To conduct studies, and make analysis and researches relating to the issues of discrimination against the minorities.
6. To give regular reports to the Government on the working of the Commission.
The National Commission for minorities was not having any statutory status. It came into being only because of the Governmental decision. Due to its weak legal position, the Government was also not serious about its reports and recommendations.
Hence, the Commission itself had requested the Govt, in its 3rd annual report that it should be provided with a statutory status with greater power and authority. The Govt accordingly introduced the National Commission for Minorities Act. in 1992.
The National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992 was passed by the Parliament with the main intention of providing protection to the minority community. Under this Act, the National Commission for Minorities was constituted on 17th May 1993, with a statutory status replacing the previous Commission. The Commission has a Chairperson, a Vice Chairperson and five members to be nominated by the Central Government. The National Commission was reconstituted with effect from 21st January 2000.
The Commissioner for Linguistic Minorities appointed under the Article 350-B of the Constitution investigates all matters relating to the safeguards provided for the linguistic minorities. He looks into representations and complaints received from various associations and individuals belonging to the linguistic minorities.
The Commissioner has his headquarters at Allahabad, with regional offices at Calcutta, Belgaum and Chennai. So far [upto 2001], 35 reports have been laid before the Parliament.
Pre-Examination Coaching Scheme for Minorities:
For improving the employability of the minorities in the public employment and increasing their intake in the professional courses, a pre- examination coaching scheme is being implemented by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, since 1992-93. During the Ninth Plan, provision of Rs.12 crore was made of which Rs.5.51 crores was released for training 13,150 candidates of the weaker sections among minorities upto March 2000.
The Government has approved area-based approach for socio-economic development of the minority concentration areas. In the first phase, 41 districts identified on the basis of 1971 census would be taken up.
The Government has set up a National Minorities Development and Finance Corporation with an authorised share capital of Rs.500 crores. The Corporation would provide economic and developmental activities for the benefit of the backward sections among the minorities. Preference is given to the occupational groups and women among minorities.
The Govt, of India has raised the level of contribution from Rs.125 crore to 300 crore subject to pro-rata contribution from the State Governments and Upon Territories towards the share capital of the Corporation.
During 1999-20 00, Corporation disbursed Rs.60.78 crore as loan covering 22,510 beneficiaries. The cumulative assistance provided by the Corporation since 1994-95 amounts to Rs.224.34 crore for 66,891 beneficiaries.
Administration of Wakfs to Promote Muslim Interests:
The Ministry of Welfare of the Central Government takes upon itself the responsibility of administering the Wakfs, the institutions meant for the protection and promotion of the Muslim interest. “Wakfs are permanent dedication of movable or immovable properties for purposes recognised by the Muslim Law as religious, pious or charitable. Better management of these institutions and fuller realisation of their objectives contribute to development and progress of the society.
The Wakfs Act, 1995:
In order to further strengthen administration of Wakfs a legislation known as “The Wakfs Act 1995” was passed in 1995. This legislation came to be enforced from 1st Jan. 1996. This Act which repeals the previous ones [of 1954 and 1984] extends to the whole of the country except the State of Jammu and Kashmir. It envisages a decentralised set up and also provides for democratisation of Wakfs Boards. As per this Act, the manager of each individual Wakf who is known as “Mutawali”, retains his autonomy in the discharge of his responsibilities. This Act, however, states that the general superintendence of all ‘wakfs in a State vests in the Wakf Board, set up by each State Government.
The Board has to ensure that the Wakfs are properly maintained and administered and that their income is duly spent on objectives for which such Wakfs were created. The Board has its own office and staff.
The overall supervision of the Wakfs Boards rests in the State Government concerned which appoints the Chief Executive Officer or the Secretary of the Board and audits its accounts. The Central Government has the power to co-ordinate the functions of the Central Wakfs Council and the State Wakfs Boards. The Central Wakfs Council was reconstituted on 26th June 1997 under the provisions of the Wakfs Act, 1995.
Maulana Azad Education Foundation:
The Maulana Azad Education Foundation was established by the Central Wakf Council to promote education amongst minorities and backward classes in particular. It has now been delinked from the Council. The foundation was registered as a Society under the Societies Registration Act, on 6th July 1989. The Govt, of India provides grants-in-aid to the Foundation to achieve its aims and objectives. During 1994-95, a sum of Rs. 25.01 crore was released and it was increased to Rs. 40.00 crore during 1997-98.
National Foundation for Communal Harmony:
The Central Govt, recently established the “National Foundation For Communal Harmony” as an autonomous body under the purview of the Home Department, to work for the rehabilitation of children who become victims of communal riots and terrorist violence. Children and women normally become the sufferers of the group riots. The above mentioned is established especially to make proper provision for the future of the riots hit children.