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Najma Heptullah

Sabka Saath, sabka vikas is our ideology, and not mere rhetoric


From her heydays in Congress, to being slighted by the party, to joining the BJP and becoming a union cabinet minister, najma heptullah has seen it all. In this freewheeling interview with Pramod Kumar, she talks about the programmes initiated for the minority community by the modi government, and how these are helping push the positive perception
PRAMOD KUMAR | Issue Dated: April 5, 2016, New Delhi
Tags : Pramod Kumar | Najma Heptullah |

You once were an active member of the previous ruling dispensation. Now, you are serving as a Union Minister in the BJP-led NDA Government. What are the differences in their respective approaches towards minorities?

The Sachar Committee Report is the clearest indication of the poor socio-economic condition of minorities. The fact is that the condition of minorities has deteriorated adversely during past Congress regimes. As far as the approach is concerned, the biggest difference which I see is that the Narendra Modi government wants to make all possible efforts for the upliftment of the poor and minorities. This 'will' was missing earlier.

What current responsibilities are you taking care of?

Prime Minister Modi has given me the job of doing everything what has not been done for minorities in the past by the previous dispensations. For the given job, our manifesto is my guide. The manifesto talks about six major issues. There’s a massive education deficit among Muslims and other minorities. But while some groups don’t need much support, the others badly need it. The second issue is skill development.  Our ministry has given 86 lakhs pre- and post-matriculation scholarships to students. While these were given by the previous government too, I have made certain improvements in these so that the benefit should reach directly to the beneficiary without any delay. We are trying to pass the benefits directly to them through bank accounts and Jan Dhan Yojna. We have also arranged for coaching for those who want to go for technical and higher education. The Prime Minister has shown interest through the Skill Development, Start-Up and other initiatives, which the Minority Ministry is also taking up. Similarly, we have started the Maulana Azad National Academy for Skills, which is offering different verticals for skill development. We have also planned to take Madarsas and their infrastructure for skill development. Apart from this, we are making efforts to implement sustainability programs for traditional artisans and women. We also have bridging courses for the drop-out students. All of these are in accordance with our manifesto.

Are these programs trustworthy?

Naturally, all these programs are trustworthy. Where is the lack of trust? On the micro level, the Ministry of Minority Affairs has taken up many vertical social upliftment programs that have been taken up by related ministries, and the minority community is accepting them wholeheartedly.

What about the results?

The results have been significant. We have undertaken point to point programs according to our manifesto. Let me tell you here that a program like ‘Nai Manzil’ was started in August last year, and till now as many as twenty thousand youth have already enrolled for the program and are beneficiaries. The program is still in progress, even as we speak. The opening of ‘Madarsa Skill Development Centres’ in Kashmir, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and in deep, interior places of Assam has sent a positive note already. The ‘Nai Roshni’ program for capacity building among women has started to open up a new panorama of economic independence. We are making them aware of the new initiatives. In the future, as and when these programs will be interlinked through internet and digitized, the success rate will be much higher because of the reduction of physical distances. The Prime Minister has launched a program ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka VIkas, which is a developmental, social empowering program at the macro level that includes minorities. What I am doing at the micro level is to give them a hand and bring them up to the level where they can be the part of the national development program. So the Minority Ministry is focusing on areas where the community is lagging. That’s what I am doing and shall continue to do.

You have talked about a slew of success stories, which we hear about a lot many times, but don't visibly see the on-ground happening...

During the last Lok Sabha elections, the rumour going round was that the incoming Modi Government was going to dissolve the Minority Ministry altogether. Then it was said that even if it were not dissolved, the Ministry would hardly receive any meaningful amount of funds as budget. But look at what has happened. Not only has the responsibility been given to a senior functionary like me, but I have also been given a free hand. Also, for example, the budget allocated is about Rs. 90 crore extra this year in order to spread the skill development program ‘Nai Manzil’ in backward areas of states like Bihar, UP and any other state where the minority community is lagging behind. Generally, it is the Congress that has treated minorities as a vote bank.

But don’t you think these programmes are also to lure these very minorities? Or has that perception changed?

Whatever programmes and policies have been adopted by our government, are not to focus on vote bank politics. Our focus is on the entire country because Prime Minister Modi is not only the Prime Minister of those people who voted for him, but the Prime Minister of the entire nation. Our focus is on whether people are getting benefits or not.

So there is no politics involved.

Of course there is no politics involved here. We want them to get the benefit, not to get the benefit from them.

The BJP has been seen with suspicion by sections of the minority community.

That suspicion has been removed. Whatever little is left, we are trying to remove them as well. During Atalji’s time, some very positive signals were sent to the minority communities, especially the Muslims. There were many initiatives that Atalji took personally in order to benefit the Muslim community. He was for the minorities and this fact was very clear in the first NDA government. Even now, the situation is the same. I am following the guidance from my Prime Minister and my Party President. It is their Lakshya, their desire, their views, that I am trying to fulfil. "Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas" (everyone's support, everyone's progress) is our ideology, and not mere rhetoric.

Will Muslims play a vital role in the next elections?

Yes! We are in politics, but do believe me again when I say that we are not treating minorities as the vote bank. Whatever results that will come, we shall accept those. Our real focus is to uplift the poor, downtrodden, backward and minority sections. Let me give you some examples. Yes, there were positives in the last UPA government, but when ministers requested an enhancement in the share capital of the National Minority Finance Development Corporation (It was Rs.1500 crores then), the raise was not given. In contrast, I went with a cabinet note to the PM in 2015. It was my first proposal in the cabinet. The capital was increased to Rs.3000 crores from the then existing Rs.1500 crores. This is a quantum leap. Similarly, one of the previous government ministers wanted the Haj department to be shifted to the Minority Ministry but the government never complied to that request. Salman Khurshid and Rahman Khan too tried their best but it was not done. I reiterated the request to Prime Minister Modi. It was my duty to let him know what was happening in this ministry before. Consequently, the department was transferred to my ministry.

I am just trying to tell you the positive approach of our government, which is attempting to make things simpler rather letting it linger on or making it complex. This is the major difference between the current and past governments. We don’t speak, we act. We believe in action.

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017