“Progress Panchayat”, the National Democratic Alliance’s (NDA) flagship programme and a part of its Muslim outreach bid, will become a regular annual feature of the Ministry of Minority Affairs, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Union Minister for Minority Affairs, said.

Speaking to The Sunday Guardian, Naqvi said that the basic idea behind the programme was to prepare a ground report by going to the districts on whether the “socio-economic-educational” empowerment schemes of the ministry are reaching the intended beneficiaries or not and then rectify the problems accordingly.

“We have several schemes that work with the objective of socio-economic and educational empowerment of the minorities for which we coordinate with the state governments and provide funding to them. In our skill development schemes, it is our endeavour that we give employment to at least 70% people who are enrolled in the scheme in the organised sector. But whether these schemes are being properly executed and whether the beneficiaries are getting the benefits, can only be truly gauged by going to the ground rather than sitting in the ministry and that is why we will go to the ground,” Naqvi said. “Jo kia hai abhee tak, jo chal rahi hai aur ab kya karna hai (What was done, what is being done and what needs to be done) to take a factual ground report and then proceed accordingly is the principle behind the idea of ‘Progress Panchayat’. All of us will soon see the result of this programme,” he said.

Naqvi said that the response generated by the “Progress Panchayat”, which has been held in four places so far, has led to demands from other state governments who have requested that such “Progress Panchayats” be conducted in their states too.

 “We have received communication from ministers from Kerala, Telangana, Bihar and Karnataka who have invited us to do similar panchayats in their states. One of the biggest takeaways from the ‘Progress Panchayat’ has been that the minority ministries in the states which were not so serious have become serious and have become very active,” he said.

The programme will not be done in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab because they are going to have elections. “We are doing 100 such panchayats all over the country, except in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh as these two states are going to the polls. If we do it there, people might associate this programme with the elections and it might lose its sanctity and seriousness,” Naqvi said.

He said a certain section of the media had distorted his statement and wrote that he had said: “Minorities sometimes feel like second class citizens.” “That was wrong (what they wrote). What I had said was that when you look to the past seven decades, you will see that minorities have been politically exploited. No empowerment of the minorities has been done. We are working to change that situation,” he said.

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