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Creating schools exclusively for minorities belies UPA’s claims of inclusive development.
For all the UPA’s professed commitment to minority welfare, its actions reveal how it has persistently misunderstood their needs. Instead of identifying how they are deprived and structurally redressing that, it has offered scraps, effectively keeping them alienated from social and economic progress. In the latest token move, the Centre is setting up three schools exclusively for students from minority communities, modelled on the Kendriya Vidyalaya.
The Union minister for minority affairs claimed that the long-term plan was to start a school in each of the 200 districts with a high population of minorities. The idea of reserving a school entirely for minority students is dangerous and wrong-headed — instead of drawing them in, the state plans to segregate Muslims in schools of their own.
Data confirms that Muslims have a severe, scandalous schooling deficit. As of last year, only 13.31 per cent of children in the 6-14 age group were enrolled in schools. Despite the Sachar committee set up by the UPA at the beginning of its first term, which demonstrated the extent to which Muslims were left out of public institutions and structures of governance, and their common aspiration for education, jobs and material advancement, their situation has barely improved even in Congress-led states.
The implementation of this report was scuttled by the very fact that it was given to the minority affairs ministry to handle, rather than mainstreaming interventions to make sure Muslims were better included in all spheres. Now, on election-eve, the ministry is making ill-considered gestures that are not only limited in scope, but also harmful to the cause of inclusive development.
It is ironic that the minister should choose Kendriya Vidyalaya as an example.
These schools are the best our public schooling has to offer, not just in terms of educational quality, but also social inclusion. They are proof that a good educational experience involves contact with diverse backgrounds. Instead of asking itself why enrolment and retention in school is low among Muslims and ensuring access, the ministry has chosen an easy but troubling workaround.