New Delhi, Oct. 9: The Prime Minister has written to the Planning Commission to reconsider its rejection of a proposal to give free bicycles to minority schoolgirls in Class IX, government sources said.
A minority affairs ministry official said: “The plan panel rejected our proposal saying some states such as Bihar were already distributing free bicycles among all Class IX schoolgirls; so the Centre didn’t need to duplicate it.”
He added that the scheme was minority minister Salman Khurshid’s idea.
The ministry’s draft proposal had said that many Muslim schoolgirls were forced to drop out after completing elementary education (Class VIII) because they had to switch to a high school further away.
It suggested that all Class IX students from all minority communities be given free bicycles “as they have no easy access or transport to reach distantly located institutions”.
On September 13, Khurshid had written to Manmohan Singh informing him of the proposed scheme and asking that it be included in the 12th five-year plan (2012-17).
A few days ago, the Prime Minister’s Office wrote back to the minority ministry saying the plan panel had rejected the proposal. It cited the commission’s reasons for doing so and added that Manmohan Singh had asked it for a rethink.
“The Prime Minister has informed us that he has written to the Planning Commission asking it to reconsider its decision,” the minority ministry official said.
Asked about the matter, a Planning Commission official chose to play it safe.
“It (accepting the scheme) would have been complicated as some states have already started distributing bicycles among girl students. Let’s see what can be done now, as we are yet to earmark the exact allocations for several minority welfare schemes,” he said.
Khurshid’s ministry has sought more than Rs 41,000 crore for minority welfare under the Prime Minister’s 15-point programme for the 12th Plan period. The sum is almost six times the Rs 7,000 crore allotted --- against a request for Rs 17,224 crore --- in the 11th Plan.
“There will be a substantial rise in the allocation for minority schemes in the 12th Plan compared with the last time. We shall announce the sum in a day or two,” a plan panel official said.
The Planning Commission has included a women’s empowerment scheme, the “Leadership Development of Minority Women”, in the 12th five-year plan.
“It aims at empowering minority women and instilling confidence among them by providing knowledge,” plan panel member Sayeeda Hamid told The Telegraph.
“It is a specially designed, fully funded scheme to reach out to women through NGOs. The selected NGOs will be provided with financial support to conduct leadership development trainings and embolden minority women to step out of the confines of home and community.”
The training will cover women’s rights relating to education and jobs. It will teach women how to access government services and programmes relating to education, health, hygiene, nutrition, immunisation, family planning, disease control, drinking water and skills training, among other things.
“Women from Bengal, Assam and Uttar Pradesh, which have large Muslim populations, will benefit from this new scheme,” Hamid said.
The Sachar committee report had highlighted how Muslims had been left out of the development trajectory and portrayed the plight of women in the community.
Compared with other minority groups, Muslims lag in literacy and jobs. Planning Commission estimates suggest that the proportion of the poor is very high among Muslims in Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Bihar and Bengal, both in urban and rural areas.