“India is home to the second-largest Muslim population in the world, and those blaming the country on minority issues have no clue about the ground realities,” Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has said.
Addressing a Washington DC audience during a fireside chat at the Peterson Institute for International Economics on Monday (April 10), Sitharaman said the Muslim population was only growing in numbers in India.
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“If there is a perception or if there’s, in reality, their lives are difficult or made difficult with the support of the State, which is what is implied in most of these write-ups, I would ask, will the Muslim population be growing from what it was in 1947… The contrast can be sharper as opposed to Pakistan, which was formed at the same time,” she said.
Violence against minorities in Pakistan: Sitharaman
Sitharaman said violence prevails against Muhajirs, Shias, and other minority groups in Pakistan, whereas, in India, every strand of the Muslim community is doing its business.
“India was divided into two Pakistans. Pakistan declared itself an Islamic country but said minorities would be protected. Every minority has been dwindling in number, or decimated in Pakistan. Even some of the Muslim sects have been decimated,” she said.
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She said law and order is a state subject in India and each province has its elected government that takes care of the law and order in those states. She said the notion that across the board in India, violence against Muslims is happening is a fallacy.
“It cannot be so. Each province and its police are different. They are run by the elected governments in those provinces. So, that itself tells you how these reports have no clue of the law and order systems in India,” the finance minister said.
“To say it’s all the blame of the government of India. I would like to say then, between 2014 and today, has the population dwindled, has the debts been disproportionately high in any one particular community?” she asked.
“I would rather invite these people who write these reports to come to India. I’ll host them, let them come and travel alone to India and prove their point,” Sitharaman said.
#WATCH | US: "Come have a look at what's happening in India rather than listen to perceptions being built by people who have not even visited at the ground and produce reports…": Union Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman responds to negative Western ‘perception’ of India pic.twitter.com/47JybaNeys
— ANI (@ANI) April 10, 2023
Around 62 per cent of the world’s Muslims live in the Asia-Pacific region (from Turkey to Indonesia), with over one billion adherents. The largest Muslim population in a country is in Indonesia, a country home to 12.7 per cent of the world’s Muslims.
Govt empowering poor with basic amenities
She said the approach of the government was to empower the poor people with at least the basic amenities. “We are reaching near saturation in providing the basic facilities in India,” she said.
She noted that the discussions earlier used to be on poverty alleviation. “Have we removed these many numbers of people from poverty and lifted them out,” she said.
Sitharaman talked about the facilities the Indian government wanted to extend to the poor in the country.
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“And that is to give them some good house to live in, which is made of concrete and not thatched roof, with toilets in them, with drinking water reaching them through pipes, electricity, and a good road, not just to the village, but also to the streets in the village and then connect them to the nearest highway; connect them with good transport facility and so on, and financial inclusion so that each member of the household has a bank account and they get every such benefit, which has to reach them, but directly into their bank account rather than through a middle agency,” she said.
“So, in each one of these, we are reaching saturation, which means if there are a hundred people today who are eligible to get them, they would get, we are near 98 points 99. And of course, newer people can get added as the population grows, we’ll keep attending to them,” Sitharaman added.
‘India’s focus on skilling and digitisation’
“India’s focus is going to be on skilling and digitisation so that there’s greater ease of living, transparency, and formalisation of the economy,” Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said.
“We are now focusing very much on skilling people, each according to their level. Skilling centres are now spread all over the country. The gradation of the skilling varies according to individuals. Businesses and private sector entrepreneurs are also tied into it so that there is a link between the kind of training that businesses want and actually those who are getting the training so that immediately they can get recruited. There will be a lot of skilling emphasis,” the minister said.
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“India’s digitisation programme will be going at full throttle and it’ll cover most aspects of our lives. Today, it covers health, education, and also financial transactions. We expect it to move on to other areas as well so that there’s greater ease of living, and the transparency economy gets even more formal. And therefore, with that, you find the economy has its full strength coming on board rather than having a second layer, which remains in the grey area,” Sitharaman added.
(With inputs from agencies)