Budget or Zakat What is the Solution?

The economic survey 2007-08, Railway Budget and the Union Budget 2008 were the three major economic events of the last week of February.

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The economic survey 2007-08, Railway Budget and the Union Budget 2008 were the three major economic events of the last week of February. On one hand, Economic Survey helps us acquaint ourselves with the present status of Indian economy and on the other, two budgets give us a fairly broad idea about how the government is planning to proceed and in which direction.
The Budget is important in the sense that it leaves far-reaching and long-lasting effects on the society and its different sections. And in the backdrop of Sachar Committee Report and subsequent district-wise reports, it becomes imperative to focus on the budget from the angle of Muslims. This year’s union budget contains six schemes, addressing directly the minorities. The fund for Ministry of Minority Affairs has been raised to Rs. 1,000 crore. Rs. 540 crore will be provided for the multi-sector development plan for the minority concentration districts. Rs. 60 crore will be given to Maulana Azad Education Foundation and Rs. 80 crore for pre-matriculation scholarships. And a grant of Rs. 45.45 crore will be made for modernising madrasas.
This is a brief account of the schemes and grants that the Union Budget 2008 proposes for minorities in general and Muslims in particular. There are two basic questions that need to be addressed in this backdrop. One: Is the amount being spent sufficiently for the advancement of Indian Muslims? The answer is surely not. The amount that has been allocated for the task of modernising madrasas is just Rs. 45.45 crore, whereas the government is willing to throw Rs 75 crore for Indian Council of Cultural Relations to promote dance, art, music and films. This comparison gives us an idea about the extent to which the government is committed to solve the grave problems pertaining to the Muslims in India.
This brings us to the other crucial question: How effectively are the funds being spent? The government is trying to address the problems by concentrating more on education, infrastructure, health and making credit available. Since the schemes, which are addressing the same concerns at the national level in general and which have a strong financial support of thousands of crores of rupees, have been sharply criticised by the experts for their low quality and inefficiency in the delivery mechanism. Now it is quite obvious for us to perceive the plight of the cash-deficient and half-hearted schemes adapted to address the problems pertaining to Muslims. And the present condition of Muslims, even after crores of rupees being spent every year, is the clear indication of the sorry state of affairs. This leads us to the basic issue of the keenness of the government towards addressing the problems pertaining to Muslims. It spends some token amount because it does not want to disappoint Muslims, and it does not go too far spending because it does not even want to disappoint people influenced by Sangh Parivar. In this context, the question that arises is: Is there any alternative? The answer is yes and that ray of hope is: Collective Zakat Collection Mechanism.
According to the economic survey of India 2007-08, the Gross Domestic Savings for the year 2006-07 is: 34. 8 % of GDP. Even if we take Muslims to be constituting 15% of the population then around 5.22% of GDP is contributed by Muslims annually as savings. In the year 2006-07, 5.22% of the GDP at current prices comes out to be Rs. 216.4 thousand crore (where GDP at current prices is Rs. 4146 thousand crore in the year 2006 -07). And now, if we calculate 2.5% of the annual savings of Muslims as Zakat, the resulting amount would be Rs. 5.41 thousand crore. If the annual Zakat collection estimate comes out to be an impressive figure of Rs. 5.41 thousand crore, then why don’t we encash it? We are not able to make most of it because at present we don’t have an organised system of collection of Zakat in our country.
Such a mechanism would have numerous benefits. To name a few, they are as follows:
* Many of the Muslims who don’t pay or pay less Zakat due to ignorance can be brought under the mainstream. By doing so, on the one hand we would be saving those Muslims from committing the great sin of evading Zakat, and on the other the collection would be many times greater than what it would have been otherwise.
The problem of inefficient allocation of precious asset of Zakat could be tackled with the help of such a mechanism. Today due to absence of an organised and transparent mechanism, major proportion of Zakat does not reach the real deserving people. With an organised mechanism, the real needy could be easily spotted, which an individual can’t afford to do.
This model can provide employment to Ulema who are specialised in Zakat. And many other Muslims would also be part of the mechanism, in a way assisting for the tasks such as collection and distribution of Zakat.
* This model would have significant impacts on the Indian society. People will realise that Islam is not like other religions which confine themselves within the four walls of spirituality and religious customs. Rather it contains a comprehensive system which is capable of addressing all the issues relating to our day-to-day life.
At global level too, this model would have immense impacts. It will be adapted by the Muslims of different countries across the world. This model will also attract immense attention from the global class of scholars and academicians, thereby leading them to understand Islam in its broader terms.
This model would help us deal with the problems pertaining to Muslim Ummah in a dignified and novel way. On the basis of this we can build a Muslim society characterised by self worthiness and courage, which in turn will help us regain our position of Khair-e- Ummah.
Before we conclude, there are a few words of caution also. Transparency should be the defining feature of this model. It should be noted that a greater proportion of money must be spent in the locality from where it is being collected. Information Technology and other modern means of communication should be employed efficiently. An important hurdle that can arise during the process is the opposition and the agitation from the different Muslim organisations, madrasas, Ulema of the various schools of thought. Therefore, utmost efforts must be made before initiating programme to have support from the big and influential organisations, with the help of dialogue, discussions and communications.
One more thing to concentrate equally on the part of Zakat Payers is to make them aware of their responsibilities. Azim Premji has been recently named as one of the top philanthropists of Asia by the Forbes Magazine. Like him there are thousands of Muslims whom we have to approach with such a mechanism. So, there is a need to kick-start discussion and dialogue with different Muslim organisations on one hand, and with Muslims at large on the other.
The time has come and this bold step needs to be taken without any further delay. All India Muslim Personal Law Board, Jamaat-e-Islami Hind and other credible Muslim organisations should join their hands together for such a great task. Allah would surely help us, provided we dare to take a step in the right direction.