Empower India Foundation held an online seminar titled “Road to Future: Opportunities in Challenges” on 18th June 2021 from 07:30 – 09:00 pm IST with an objective of discussing the future plans of EIF with respect to the India 2047 Project.
The speakers of the webinar that was moderated by Faiz Muhamed, Head of Relations, EIF, were Prof. Nishath Khalida Parveen, Prof. P. Koya, Muhammad Raphy and Mohamed Shaffeeq.
Prof. Khalida Parveen, Vice Chairperson of EIF, in her comprehensive and precise introductory speech, gave the audience an idea about Empower India Foundation, its mission, objectives, evolution of India 2047 Project, efforts behind the preparation of ‘India2047, Empowering the People’ Project Document, release of the document, the motivating comments from personalities like Justice Sachar, Prof. Aslam, et al, at the release event in Delhi on 15th August 2016, the 70th Independence Day of the country, the pilot projects undertaken by EIF, etc. She explained the Empowerment Ladder concept and emphasised the need to focus on empowering by own initiative.
Prof. P. Koya speaking on ‘Muslim India, Current State,’ started his speech by congratulating Prof. Khalida Parveen for her wonderful introduction about EIF. “…Empower India Foundation is a landmark towards the empowerment of 150 million or 200 million Indian Muslims,” he commented. P. Koya went through in detail about the Muslim status in India, especially after the autocratic and anti-democratic BJP ascended to power at the centre in 2014. Post-2014 is, in fact, post-truth period where “truth is at a premium while lies are taking control of everything.” He said that the basic principles of the Constitution such as secularism have been undermined by the hegemonic minority that control the country, who don’t like secular and liberal approach. They use religion, caste and region to discriminate the citizens. Muslim community in India is at the receiving end due to the lies propagated against them by this group, demonisation, victimisation and driving them out of the mainstream. Though Partition was not an idea of any religious leaders, but the aspiration of the “secularists to core” leaders like Muhammad Ali Jinna, Sardar Patel, Jawaharlal Nehru, et al, the blame is put on Muslims and they are being asked to pay for what they haven’t done. Even the left-liberal-secular icons such as former Kerala CM VS Achuthanandan are not free from vilifying Muslims, said the professor quoting VS’ comment that Muslim girls in Malappuram are copying answers to get high ranks in the competitive exams. Muslims in the south are relatively in a better position, may be because of the Vindhyas and the Western Ghats blocked the poison flowing from the north to the south, he commented. Muslims, though slowly, are coming up without any support from the ruling system. They are finding out the light at the end of the tunnel. They are advancing in the field of education and other fields, even in a very backward state like Bihar. Professor highlighted the actual objective of Reservation, which never has been religion. He mentioned the Sachar Committee report as a bolt in the blue, which acted as a catalyst, making the Muslims more dynamic and more worried about their status, though they were celebrating the report. Sachar found out Muslims fall behind the SCs and STs. It is the post-truth spread of lies that has become the deadliest threat to Muslims. 400 IT specialist are engaged in Delhi BJP office to cook up lies! Unless, people come together to defend such kind of lies, this will remain the deadliest threat. Getting empowered is the way out to defeat this. Empowerment is not something that we get from the Ration Shops. There are good signs of people coming to take on such threats. Muslim women are raising to the occasion which was illustrated by the women agitators at Shahinbagh in the anti-CAA protest. Prof. P. Koya concluded his speech by referring to the characteristic of the neo-fascists of using confusing language when they are not sure about what do in crises.
“Challenges and Obstacles” was the topic on which Muhammad Raphy spoke.
The community is facing different types of challenges. They may be self-created or evolved or posed by the rulers. The backwardness in education and economy are known challenges. Since 2014 there are additional challenges faced by those who are not in the good books of the BJP government. They deny the deserving benefits to the community using means that look genuine but are cleverly devised against, not only Muslims but also the weaker sections of the society. Government is gradually withdrawing from providing support to them and spending in their welfare segment. PM’s provision of welfare is centred on the media coverage potential. If there is a scope for wide media coverage, he will come in the limelight declaring and announcing fabulous schemes and projects which will never get fulfilled, but disappear with the PM from in front of the cameras. Humanities subjects in education field are getting debilitated and fund allocation to this sector is being cut down regularly. Beneficiaries of scholarship are mostly from the backward and remote areas in the country, where bank accounts and digital money transactions are yet to be familiar to the folk, and where internet facilities are not properly available. Linking of scholarship schemes with bank account and Adhar has resulted in lesser number of applications, due to the above fact and the government citing the lesser number of applications cut short the allotment of funds for scholarship. It looks naïve and the agenda behind this trickery is not visible. This way a major section of the backward communities in the society is getting detached from such schemes. Similarly, income tax payable limit is Rs. 5 lakhs, whereas the eligibility limit of income for scholarship is Rs. 2 lakhs! Another area that the BJP government has tattered is the CSR support. Manmohan Singh government had identified charity areas where the CSR funds have to be expended. BJP’s first step in 2014 was to include politically motivated projects in charity segments, and thus diverting the CSR funds to projects of its choice. NGOs and charity organisations that are engaged in welfare and charity work are being suffocated by denying them the FCRA, tax relaxation, etc. This causes to block the money reaching the grassroots empowerment activities. We have directly faced such challenges during our efforts to implement the pilot projects. Lack of conducive atmosphere due to the political milieu has compelled us to abandon some projects. Another major challenge is from within. It is the tendency to blame the past and finding reasons for the backwardness instead of suggesting solutions; lack of awareness about the government-provided welfare schemes; scarcity of people capable of making people aware of these schemes and projects; lack of enthusiasm to get empowered, etc. too are retarding the empowerment activities. Muslim representation in IAS/IPS sector is still 4%. Increase in the number of applicants shows that the awareness to attend these competitive exams has slightly improved, but the outcome is not proportionate to the number of applicants. These people still lack optimism and hence there is no enthusiasm to continue trying till success. People are still waiting for “somebody” to come to empower them. No, there is nobody to come, but empowerment is your responsibility. The community still stand in the front of charity and relief works, but there is no vision about development and sustainable development. Percentage of money spent for development and sustainable development should be increased; optimal use of all the resources should be ensured; efforts should be redirected for long-term projects for development, not for short-term development. Contribution of social investment needs to be targetted for empowerment. Lack of competent NGOs to partner for such activities too is a challenge, and the biggest challenge still remains to have the community united, Raphy concluded.
Presentation of Mohamed Shaffeeq, “Way Forward,” was focussed on the future activities of EIF, based on its objectives. He presented the statistical data of Muslim population in India which is the second largest in the world, and the ownership of Wakf properties which is the third largest in terms of the land ownership in India. Shaffeeq referred to Sachar report which has underlined the backwardness of the Muslim community. He noted that only 50% of the funds for Sarvasiksha Abhiyaan from the budget allocation was utilised by Muslim community in 2018 to highlight the status of the community in making use of even the government funds.
Following the data analysis, Shaffeeq explained the objective of Empower India Foundation, India 2047 Project and the Project Document. The project is based on clearly identified focus areas, objectives and initiatives. He underscored the “no-role-in-implementation” stand of EIF, and explained what role EIF plays in getting the projects implemented. EIF has now been reconstituted focussing on three areas, viz., Relations, Research and Publications. Relations wing will concentrate on developing outreach that would help find out volunteers and organisations capable of implementing projects, locally. Young researchers have been identified and engaged them in conducting short-term and long-term researches on topics and issues related to Muslim empowerment. Their research papers will be published by the Publications department, explained Shaffeeq. Keeping in mind that, no single organisation can handle this backwardness, EIF is endeavouring to localise the empowerment activities and disseminate the mission to the public, and that is the way forward in achieving the empowerment goal. As part of this effort, local level chapters are being formed in Muslim populated areas with volunteers ready to and capable of identifying the local needs of empowerment, and work for it. This activity is progressing positively. Shaffeeq concluded the presentation quoting Quranic verse, “Allah will guide those who are ready to struggle in His path.”
Moderator Faiz Mohammed thanked the speakers and the audience, closing the 84 minutes webinar.
A total of 388 people viewed it live, and the viewership has reached 2,497 so far.