Time and again, we have heard the Opposition harping about how the Indians in the country have been marginalised and how BN allegedly always overlooked their needs.
However, if we look carefully at the announcements made by PM Najib Razak in the Budget 2018, this minority community has gotten their fair share of the cake.
As for all communities, their major concern is of course, housing, quality education and an opportunity to invest for the future.
For a start, Najib grabbed the attention of the Indian business community when he allocated RM50 million to Tekun.
This money will be used to assist more than 35,000 Indian entrepreneurs and he also announced an additional RM50 million for the community’s socio-economic development programme.
The highlight of the budget however was the new initiative via Permodalan Nasional Berhad to enable a special distribution of 1.5 billion additional units of Amanah Saham 1Malaysia – limited to 30,000 units per investor.
In support of the initiative, he said a RM500 million fund was allocated over a five-year period for a special investment loan scheme.
“This loan scheme will be offered to 100,000 households from the B40 Indian community, limited to 5,000 units per participant,” said Najib, who is also the Finance Minister.
Compared to the goodies rolled out by the BN for the Indians, the budget unveiled by Pakatan Harapan was a far cry, propagating two pages of very vague and mostly stolen ideas and initiatives.
The simple reason for the lack of attention on the Indian community is that PH is not dependent on Indian votes, so why bother with the community.
In fact, I doubt PH even has any Indian voice within their own parties.
Najib on the other hand had undertaken to help Indians even when he was the deputy PM, when he worked on a cabinet committee to uplift the community.
Even during the 22 years reign of Tun Dr Mahathir as the premier, the Indians were poorly treated.
As MIC deputy president S.K. Devamany lamented, the people suffered with Mahathir as education minister and then PM for 30 years.
“He destroyed the beautiful fabric of communal togetherness still enjoyed in Sabah and Sarawak. He destroyed it here in the peninsular,” he said.
Devamany said the estate environment was one that was structured, communal and hierarchical, where people worked and prayed together, therefore being thrown out to unfamiliar territory resulted in extreme social disorder.
“The migration from estates to urban areas was not handled well, leaving this new sub-urban community trapped in economic turmoil without identity, loose cultural and spiritual heritage and broken families (as both parents have to work to make ends meet).
”In this setting, suddenly with no economic opportunity, youth started going into gangsterism as the easiest way to earn money. They also joined gangs for the lost sense of inclusiveness,” said Devamany.
Nevertheless, he expressed unwavering faith in Najib for repairing the years of damage done to the Indian community.
Najib is now recreating the social structure for the Indians which was lost. That should be our direction, towards a new sense of belonging. It is very idealistic but something that should be tried.
The PM has not only done plenty for the community but has also stood up for them as demonstrated in the appointment of Datuk T. Subromaniam as the Customs director-general, despite opposition towards it.
“The appointment of the Customs director-general was fraught with difficulties. I received a petition to not appoint an Indian as the Customs director-general. I said no. He qualifies due to his seniority. I stood my ground,” said Najib.
Also, in the period Najib has been PM, almost RM900 million has been allocated for Tamil schools.
As MIC treasurer-general Vell Paari put it, Budget 2018 is the most comprehensive budget to further improve and develop the community.
Party president Dr S. Subramaniam meanwhile said the budget was in line with the promises made by the ruling coalition to provide a better future for the community.
He said the programmes complement the Malaysian Indian Blueprint.
This is clear proof that the premier has kept his promise. In fact, he made the announcement on the allocations under PNB in April at the MIB launch.
The MIB, among others, contains solutions to several key issues affecting the community such as education, improving livelihoods and better social inclusion.
“All the measures taken by the PM show that he cares for the Indian community.”
The PM also reiterated during his budget announcement that the new intake of Indians to public higher learning institutions and the public service would be increased to a targeted seven per cent.
With all these goodies laid out, the onus is now on the MIC to ensure they are properly implemented and monitored to reap the best possible results for the Indians.
As Najib said, past initiatives had not properly trickled down to the community.
The Opposition had also tried to take another swipe at Najib, claiming there were 300,000 stateless Indians in the country.
The government launched a nationwide MyDaftar initiative in June from which only about 2,500 citizenship applications were received from Malaysian Indians, including those born before independence and whose births had not been registered.
“This is a fairy tale,” said Najib at a recent ceremony where he gave out citizenship documents to 177 ethnic Indians in the country, many of whom had gone decades without proper identification documents.
All these clearly indicates that Najib has certainly done more for the Indians than any of his predecessors.