Few minority MPs turn up for special meeting

By Rajeev Ranjan Roy, IANS

New Delhi : An important meeting the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) called Monday evening to discuss major issues, including conversions, turned out to be a “damp squib” with only about dozen minority community MPs turning up.

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“There were several important issues to be discussed with the minority MPs, including the possibility of a central legislation applicable to all states to deal with the problem of conversions. Only around 12 MPs, including Mohammad Salim of the CPI-M, turned up for the meeting,” well-placed government sources told IANS.

The NCM convened the closed-door meeting of minority MPs to discuss matters of importance for minorities and prepare an action plan to tackle these.

“There are about 36 Muslim MPs in the Lok Sabha alone. The invitation had been sent to around 100 sitting and former members of the minority community. The poor response from them raises serious questions as to how concerned they are about the wellbeing of the minorities,” a source said.

Minister of Minority Affairs A.R. Antulay, who participated in the meeting, said that Muslims in particular and minorities in general have to work hard to ameliorate their socio-economic and financial status.

“Much has to be done at the ground level. The minorities cannot keep feeding on just promises,” Antulay said, according to the sources. The meeting was not open to the media.

The poor presence of MPs has disappointed NCM chairperson Mohammad Shafi Qureshi as well.

“Since parliament is in session, we expected a fair participation of minority MPs in the deliberations. Unfortunately, many of them did not turn up for reasons best known to them. Very few did come to share their views on the problems of the minority community,” Qureshi told IANS.

“The number, anyway, does not matter. I hope they will do the needful.”

Qureshi said that the meeting unanimously agreed that the recommendations of the Justice Rajinder Sachar Committee on the socio-economic conditions of Muslims should be implemented in “a time-bound manner and should ensure that the funds allocated for the minorities are utilised in time”.

Finance Minister P. Chidambaram in the budget allocated Rs.10 billion for the development of minorities, who account for over 18 percent of the country’s total population.

Chidambaram also said that a multi-sectoral development plan for 90 minority-concentration districts would be drawn up at a cost of Rs.37.8 billion, of which Rs.5.4 billion would be spent in 2008-09.

Some of these districts are Purnea and Kishanganj in Bihar, Saharanpur and Meerut in Uttar Pradesh, Hingoli and Buldana in Maharashtra, Dhubri and Goalpara in Assam, Ukhrul and Chandel in Manipur, Maldah and Birb hum in West Bengal, Tawang and Papum Pare in Arunachal Pradesh and Sahibganj and Pakur in Jharkhand.

“There is a need for a proactive role from the elected legislators to pursue the progress of all minority schemes including the implementation of the Sachar Committee recommendations,” Qureshi said.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had set up the committee in March 2005 to evaluate the socio-economic and educational status of minorities, in particular Muslims.

The Sachar Committee report revealed widespread illiteracy and poverty among minorities, in particular Muslims. According to the 2001 census, Muslims account for 13.8 percent of the country’s population.