Salman Khursheed, the new minister for minority affairs, on Tuesday sought to de-emphasise the demand for reservation for Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims on the lines of the Scheduled Castes, saying that quota was not the only route to empowerment.
Although he said his ministry would “certainly examine the issue”, the minister said there could be some constitutional constraints to take the matter forward. “Reservation is not the only answer to social welfare although it is definitely time-tested and popular answer for welfare and empowerment,” he said.
The ministry, he said, is looking at empowerment in totality and felt a genuine effort made by the software sector through technical education for the underprivileged could have much more success in that direction.
Underlining that the UPA government and Congress were “committed to giving attention to the minorities,” he said that the Sachar Committee was a “major step” as far as the Muslims were concerned and it’s implementation would be the top priority this time. At the same time, he had a word of caution saying: “We will have to see that procedural delays do not negate the noble dream that we have for implementing the Sachar Committee report.”
Mr Khursheed said the issue of Equal Opportunity Commission (EOC), which was also pending with the Centre, was “an extremely promising step” and an answer for the future. “It’s an answer to the lot of the piecemeal efforts that we are making for empowerment.
It’s an extremely promising step that we can take during the course of this government. We are in process of active consultation with other ministries, other empowerment-related agencies,” Mr Khursheed said.
The minister also said the government will make all efforts to get a law to deter communal violence passed in Parliament and give protection to minorities.
“My ministry will make all efforts to ensure that the Communal Violence Bill, which has been pending since the last government, is passed,” he said. The Bill, aimed at giving protection to the minorities, provides punitive measures for perpetrators of the riots, and has been pending with the UPA government after the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) drafted it.
“The Bill has been under inter-ministerial consultation and dialogue. We will definitely make efforts to see that it is passed by this government as it is something that needs to be done. We are going to have detailed discussions with all the ministries concerned on the issue as it requires a combined effort,” Mr Khursheed said.
The minister, however, declined to give any time frame on the issue since detailed consultations had to be carried out with the home and other ministries.