Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, who has been elevated to cabinet rank, speaks on minorities, instant triple talaq and the universal civil code. Excerpts:
Congratulations. You have been the sole minister of minority affairs for many months now. How will cabinet rank make a difference to your work?
Our concept of governance is development with dignity. Especially among minorities, we are constantly striving to connect people with the government. Our political opponents have nothing to hit us with, there is no corruption, no policy paralysis in the Narendra Modi government. So they want to fire from over the shoulders of minorities. We are committed to the professional and political progress of minorities. Through that, we need to move from the exploitation of minorities for political ends to the creation of an environment of development and trust.
Your government had said that instant triple talaq should end and the Supreme Court has ruled that it is illegal. Many Muslim organisations are upset about this.
Instant triple talaq is a social evil that had to end. It does not even have the sanction of religion. This is an essential reform and 99 per cent Muslims think it is a welcome step… There is always some opposition to such big reforms. However, we are a democratic country and we will be happy to listen to the views of Muslim organisations across the spectrum.
What role will your ministry play in smoothening out the opposition to the instant triple talaq verdict?
Ministries and governments function within the framework of the Constitution and the Constitution guarantees the right to equality. Triple talaq is a clear-cut violation of that and, therefore, cannot be right. The matter is effectively closed there. But if anyone wants to meet us on this, we will certainly meet and listen to their views. No reform can happen with a rigid mindset. We will clear all confusion and misgivings.
Many sections of Muslims are saying the verdict is merely a wedge in the door to push through a uniform civil code.
We will talk to everyone. The UCC (uniform civil code) is not Skylab that it will fall without any warning on people. The Constitution is very clear that Uniform Civil Code cannot happen without consensus. Consensus will have to be built. There has to be a national debate . Whatever happens will certainly be within the framework of the Constitution.
What is your agenda for the future?
Our work is focussed around what I call 3Es — education, employment and empowerment. The real issue among minorities, as we all know, is education. More than 80 per cent children who drop out of school belong to minority communities. Our target is to put an end to school dropouts through scholarships etc and build awareness. On the employment front, we have been holding hunar haats to give a platform to traditional artisans.
You are repeatedly talking about employment generation whereas the GDP figures that have just come in indicate massive job losses post demonetisation. How will you create jobs in such an environment?
Our focus, you must understand, is firmly on the poor. All ministers are working in their own field to improve their lot. The agenda is decided by the 15-point programme, you have to go to small places to see the kind of work this government is doing. I am not an economist to comment on GDP figures but I can assure you that the economy is in safe hands and the corruption free environment will strengthen GDP figures in the future.