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Only Muslim lady in Maharashtra cabinet at work to bring surprising turnaround

Tuesday, December 01, 2009 10:57:57 AM, Aleem Faizee ummid.com

Mrs. Fauzia Khan - Minister of State for Minority Development and a host of other portfolios making a point while speaking with ummid.com

(Photo: ummid.com)

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Mumbai: Mrs. Fauzia Khan is the first Muslim lady who took the oath as a minister in Maharashtra Government. The portfolios she has been assigned include Minority Development, Primary & School Education, Labour, Right to Information combined with few other important portfolios. Before taking charge as a minister, she as an MLC and head of Federation of Minority Educational Organisation struggled for long to get a hearing from the power corridors about the issues pertaining to the minorities, especially poor infrastructure and lack of quality education in their institutions.  In the driving seat and in a position to take decisions, Mrs. Fauzia Khan exclusively spoke to ummid.com at her Mantralaya office about the challenges she is facing in her new job, the priorities in her mind, and the plans and schemes on card for the development of people and minorities in Maharashtra. ummid.com is first to take the interview of this visionary lady after she became a minister.

 

Normally in India, our ministers seldom know the basic problems they are expected to look into. The best thing with Mrs. Fauzia Khan however is she seems to be well aware of the issues facing the state in general and the minorities in particular. At the same time she also has a vision and out of box thinking to address them. This is why after talking to her one gets a feeling that with Mrs. Fauzia Khan in the chair people in the state especially the minorities can surely expect something really good for them in coming days.

Excerpts:

For years, you have worked for development of the minorities in Maharashtra especially to improve their education quality and to address other issues. Do you think people should expect few immediate decisions as you are in a driving seat now?

Capacity to hold office and being in a decision making position is of course important. But in a democratic government everything has to be done in the framework of rules and in phased manner. There indeed are issues needed to be addressed urgently. However people should not expect any hasty decision that can be counter productive in longer run. 

 

Along with other portfolios you also have Ministry of Minority Development under you. What are your priorities for development of the minorities?

Maharashtra is the only state in the country that has such a ministry. Though the government took a very important step when in February 2008 it established this ministry, it is still a baby and has its own problems. It needs time to tackle them and grow to be fully functional. But, as I just said, I am not for any hasty decision making. Moreover, I believe in quality and quantity to be looked into simultaneously. For, development is a simultaneous and continuous process and I would be comfortable if I address issues simultaneously.

 

Mrs. Fauzia Khan says...

"Our whole teaching methodology and syllabus need a thorough makeover. People from financially weaker families just canít afford if their children study for 16 to 18 long years to be able to earn their livelihood."

Even then there are issues needed to be addressed on priority basis. As a Minister holding important portfolios what are the things you would address first?

The quality of education and basic infrastructure in government schools are truly worrisome. The approach and teaching methodology have lost the needed focus. Moreover, school administration and teachers do not seem to be left with any sort of accountability to deliver. Top in my priority list besides improving the basic infrastructure is to bring teaching in these institutions child-focused and to make school administration and teachers accountable.

 

On one hand the Government wants others to deliver while on the other it has absolutely no plan to address the issues haunting them since years. Is there anything different that you have in your mind?

No doubt there are barriers and limitations. Also, insufficient number of schools in the state has resulted in practically inappropriate teacher, student ratio. These are the things unless tackled urgently can multiply the existing problems. But then there are budgetary constraints that refrain us doing too much in this regard.

 

How can one expect results when the government passes resolutions like Right to Education but not willing to give permissions to new schools and colleges even on non-grant basis?

It is true that we donít have enough number of schools and colleges. The fact is that we should have more funds for education. Right now we are spending just 6% of our budget for education. However to get the desired results we need far more than this.

 

The Government has spent millions of rupees as part of its Serva Shiksha Abhyan (SSA) campaign. Do you think utilizing such a huge amount without any proper monitoring has yielded in desired results?

Irregularities in utilizing funds and corruption have become a curse of our system. Government is doing many things to control the situation. But this is not enough. Opposition to such evils should come from within the society. As a civil society what we need is to support the government in its drive against corruption.

 

It means budgetary constraint is not the only problem that we are facing today?

No doubt there are many other hurdles besides this. Like, people demand for new schools and colleges. But, where are the iron-hands to control them? Where are the committed people who could honestly work to produce the desired results?

 

Mrs. Fauzia Khan says...

"Opposition to corruptions and irregularities while utilizing government funds should come from within the society. As a civil society what we need is to support the government in its drive against corruption."

Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) is willing to establish its off-campus regional centre in Maharashtra provided the state government gives land. Why the government is not showing any interest in this regard even though it is lacking in quality and numbers when it comes to schools and colleges?

It is not that the government does not have interest in the AMUís proposal. The AMU centre in Maharashtra is in my mind and I am consulting with the top government leaderships and officials to push the proposal. The problem is that AMU has selected Pune as the venue to establish its off-campus centre and getting land there is very difficult. Yet we are working on various options like providing the required land at some other place to make the AMU off-campus in Maharashtra a reality.

 

Besides Minority Development, you also hold primary education and labour. How can we talk of minority welfare, education to all and eliminating child labour if we take such a long time for deciding on an important project?

Insufficient number of schools is not the only problem when it comes to eliminating the child labour. As a matter of fact, our whole teaching methodology and syllabus need a thorough makeover. People from financially weaker families just canít afford if their children study for 16 to 18 long years to be able to earn their livelihood. Hence, when they get a job opportunity at an early age they leave their education incomplete. But, since they are not qualified enough they are vulnerable to exploitation. If we design a syllabus that can offer them acquire certified skills at a suitable age, getting education would become affordable for everyone and child-labour or labour exploitation would be controlled automatically.

 

About the AMU off-campus center in Maharashtra and minority welfare, I have just taken the charge as a minister. Give me some time. I assure you, people in the state would surely witness the difference in three to four months.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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