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India Government committed to minorities welfare

The government is committed to the welfare of minorities but “fairness” in implementing schemes is needed to avoid questions being raised, Minority Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said Monday and assured that a commission to deal with discrimination on the basis of religion, caste, gender and language will be created soon.“There is nothing to worry about (for minorities). We are committed. We have programmes for their welfare but let’s implement them with fairness so that no questions are raised,” Khurshid told reporters here.

He was speaking at the 10th editors’ conference on social sector issues.

The minister said the government has “entirely” accepted the recommendations, barring one, of the Rajinder Sachar Committee, which was appointed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to study the social and economic status of minorities in India.

The Sachar Committee report suggested mechanisms to ensure equity and equality of opportunity in jobs and education to Muslims, who form the largest minority in India.

Of India’s 1.2 billion population, Muslims constitute 14 percent followed by Christians at 2.3 percent, Sikhs at 1.9 percent, Buddhists at 0.8 percent, Jains at 0.4 percent and others including Parsis at 0.6 percent.

Salman Khurshid said an equal opportunities commission will be formed soon to deal with discrimination faced by minorities in areas like employment, education and housing.

“The report on the equal opportunities commission is close to draft legislation. It will take the social justice discourse to a new higher level,” he said.

The minister said that the commission won’t be specific to minority communities only.

“It will work among identified groups who have suffered deprivation. It will ensure that equal opportunities are given to all,” he said.

He said the government has identified 90 districts in the country where Muslims comprise 25 percent and has earmarked Rs.3,700 crore for the development of these districts in the current Five Year Plan (2007-12).

Khurshid said the government was in the process of finalizing a bill to ensure that the Wakf boards – trusts which look after Muslim mosques, shrines and allied properties – function in a streamlined fashion.

The records of Waqf boards will also be computerised “to ensure proper survey and cross checking of Waqf data in all states and improve office efficiency and preparation of timely reports on various administrative matters”, he said.

The scheme will streamline record keeping and introduce transparency in Waqf properties.

The scheme will be uniformly applicable across all the 29 state Waqf boards except for Jammu and Kashmir, he said.

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