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New Delhi: Kapil Sibal, the country’s new education boss, has asked officials to prepare a roadmap for the urgent implementation of key initiatives promised to minorities.


In his first key decision, two hours after taking charge, the human resource development minister asked officials to prepare the roadmap by 4pm on Monday.


Sibal has also sought a status report on the implementation of minority education promises, sources said.


The return of minority votes from various regional parties back to the Congress is considered by many analysts a key reason for the party’s haul of 206 seats in the Lok Sabha elections.


The UPA had in its previous term set up a committee under former Delhi High Court Chief Justice Rajinder Sachar to study the state of Muslims in education, health, employment and other social and economic indicators.


The Sachar committee report revealed that Muslim students spend almost a year less in school than the national average. One in every four Muslim children between 6 and 14 years never goes to school or drops out before completing Class X. Less than four in every hundred Muslims are graduates or hold diplomas.


Based on the Sachar committee’s recommendations to improve the socio-economic conditions of Muslims, the Prime Minister had drafted a 15-point programme of action.


The action plan includes several initiatives in education, focusing on districts and blocks with higher than average Muslim population.


Although Arjun Singh, Sibal’s predecessor, started acting on several initiatives outlined in the 15-point programme, most are yet to be implemented.


“The new minister’s urgency in seeking a roadmap in implementing minority education measures suggests that this is a priority for the Prime Minister,” a source said.


An Equal Opportunity Commission was recommended by the Sachar panel to address grievances of backward communities.


The panel also recommended a diversity index to award extra points — effectively like a golf handicap — to backward community members applying for jobs or education.


Parameters of both the opportunity panel and the diversity index are yet to be finalised.


The Sachar panel’s recommendation to scrutinise school textbooks for communal content has also not been implemented, with a proposed national textbook council yet to take off.


The UGC is yet to implement a recommendation to link financial allocations of higher educational institutions to the diversity in their student population.


Earlier in the day, Sibal signalled that his takeover of the HRD ministry would not lead to drastic policy changes. “None of the policies of the previous government will be abrogated, but if any change is needed, that can always be accommodated,” Sibal said at his Shastri Bhavan office.


Sibal called recommendations of the National Knowledge Commission “pivotal” to transform India into a knowledge economy, hinting at a shift from his predecessor’s public opposition to the panel under Sam Pitroda. But he also clarified that all recommendations of the NKC need not be implemented.

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