The annual federal budget of India’s pro-Hindu government has disappointed religious minorities as much of it was mere juggling of words, according to civil society groups and opposition political parties.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the US$719 million allocated to the Ministry of Minority Affairs is a 62% increase, but critics say funding for minority development schemes has come down.
“The fact is that the allocation for minority development schemes has been sharply reduced” to one fourth from US$634 million to US$158 million, said Mamata Banerjee, the chief minister of West Bengal State who leads the Trinamool (grassroots) Congress, an opposition party.
“It is a budget which is neither here nor there. There is nothing new.” However, Minister for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi told reporters that the major chunk of the funding will go toward the education of Muslim women and their empowerment.
Rights activist Bezwada Wilson told that the budget carries no hope for marginalized groups such as the Dalits, ethnic minority groups and indigenous people.
“From that perspective, it is a big disappointment for the country’s poor people,” he said.
Wilson said government claims of increasing funding do not mean anything for the people.
“The issue is how the government will implement the schemes that it says are meant for minorities. It is well apprehended that tomorrow it [money] will be used to build a park, and it will be said that minorities can also can jog in it. This is the way things are going in this country,” he said.