Mumbai: a new welfare programme for the country’s religious minorities has been presented the Indian government.

It is presented yesterday by Union Minister for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, ‘The Empowerment without appeasement and development with dignity’ plan to the Lok Sabha, the Lower House of Parliament.

The minister’s new mantra is meant at six minority groups: Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Jains, Buddhists and Parsees living in India.

This planning of “development with dignity” is welcomed by Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) but wonders “about the 12 million Dalit Christians who have no reserved seats.

By Naqvi, there is no single district in the country where minorities have not benefitted from the welfare programmes launched by the government of Narendra Modi since 2014. “We believe in relentless emancipation and development with dignity,” Naqvi said.

Then the minister mentioned his ministry’s expenditures for minority support programmes: 38.27 billion rupees (US$ 555 million) in 2016-2017, 41.95 billion rupees (US$ 610 million) in 2017-2018, 47 billion (US$ 682 million) in 2018-2019.

As per Sajan K George’s opinion, the new programme is a good initiative; but “Dalit Christians are still the most deprived in terms of justice because they are denied the benefits of affirmative actions” for destitute castes.

The Christian leader minutes that the 1950 presidential order states that “no person who professes a religion different from the Hindu, the Sikh or the Buddhist religion shall be deemed to be a member of a scheduled caste.”

Later then, the paragraph 3 was modified, “to include Sikhs and Buddhists. However, Muslims, Christians, Jains and Parsis are still excluded from the advantages” reserved for the lower castes in India’s social hierarchy. Dalit Christians continue to suffer double discrimination.

“The caste system is not merely a religious system; but also a socio-economic one,” George clarifies. “If a crime is committed against Hindu, Sikh or Buddhist Dalits, they can turn to the law. But the same does not happen for Christian Dalits, who are not considered among the disadvantaged castes. Hence, they are exposed to forms of oppression, mistreatment and atrocities.”

“Deprived of the legal benefits of the system of reserved quotas, the liberation of Christian Dalits seems bleak,” he laments.



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