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House panel reveals tardy use of minority funds

- Report says less than 40% of central money for welfare schemes in seven districts has been spent

Patna, Dec. 16: Nitish Kumar may have snapped ties with the BJP over Narendra Modi, but it may not be enough to woo Muslims.

Muslim leaders point out the chief minister needs to do more than provide just “lip-service” to minorities. A House committee report tabled in the Assembly on December 10 points out that more than half the funds the Centre sent under the multi-sector development programme (MSDP) for seven districts with sizeable Muslim population in Bihar, was returned after it lapsed.

After the Sachar Committee report threw light on the condition of minorities, the Centre pumped in funds into 90 districts across the country with a substantial minority population. In four consecutive financial years, from 2007 to 2011, over Rs 523 crore was sent to Purnea, Araria, Darbhanga, Kishanganj, Sitamarhi, Katihar and Paschimi Champaran districts in Bihar. But on the utilisation front, the figures were not impressive with the government spending a little over Rs 201 crore, or around a meagre 38.4 per cent of the funds.

In Sitamarhi, home to minority welfare minister Shahid Ali Khan, only about 26.5 per cent of the funds was spent.

“The schemes were not monitored well and I was told the funds arrived late from Delhi,” said the chairman of the Assembly’s estimate committee, Izhar Ahmad, a JD(U) MLA.

“The MSDP funds were meant to increase productivity of young Muslims and enable them to get jobs. But the detailed project reports did not go to Delhi in time and no agriculture- computer-or other job-oriented training camps came up. In West Champaran, the funds were used to build Indira Awas houses and in Katihar, solar lights,” said RJD legislator Akhtarul Imam of Kochadhaman, where Muslims account for 70 per cent of the population.

The House committee report also pointed out that under the state plan for welfare of minorities, all 38 Bihar districts should have set up men’s hostels for minorities. But only 23 have come up. In fact, in four districts, even land has not been finalised. Similarly, girls’ hotels for minorities should have come up in 18 districts. But only two have come up. The committee has found deficiencies in disbursement of scholarship to Muslim students, funds for their coaching to prepare for UPSC and training for artisans. Even construction of madarsa classrooms remains incomplete. The committee has recommended punishment for erring officials and constant monitoring of minority welfare schemes.

“Even the work shown as completed on paper needs auditing. If physically verified, the results would be astonishing,” said another JD(U) MLA, stressing that the failure was administrative. The chief minister himself initiated a skill-training programme called “Hunar” for Muslim girls. But there is no such in the state.

Minority welfare minister Shahid Ali Khan said: “Initially, there was confusion about which schemes should be taken up. My officials went to Delhi 32 times with detailed project reports but these were all rejected. I even told then Union minority welfare minister Salman Khurshid that, sitting in Delhi, he could not perceive which scheme would benefit Muslims in the districts. Later, the Centre conceded that schemes should be decided by the states.”

He said utilisation of funds under MSDP was lower in other states, but contested the House panel’s utilisation figures, saying Rs 350 crore has been spent. “However, some schemes like making polytechnics and hostels take time,” he said.