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Mainstream, Vol XLVI No 11

Advani’s Remarks Most Disturbing

Budget Barely Touches Christian Needs

Saturday 1 March 2008, by John Dayal

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate, Lal Krishna Advani, may be trying to score political debating points over the ruling Congress-led United Progressive Alliance, but his ‘Liaquat Ali’ statements on the Union Budget have left religious minorities deeply disturbed and disappointed.

It is obvious that the BJP’s paranoia has not abated with what should have been increasing maturity in its experience with democratic politics in secular India. Statements such as Advani’s– with its pre-Partition of India rhetoric in references to Liaquat Ali—are tantamount to a hate campaign against the minorities. Such malicious innuendos directly create an environment of deep suspicion against Muslims and Christians in India. He makes it seem that minority welfare and programmes for their uplift are somehow anti-national. This further fuels mischief which leads to pogroms such as in Gujarat in 2002 and serial arson and Christian persecution as in Orissa’s Christmas of 2007.

Of all of India’s deprived billion, the religious minorities are the worst off, and among them, the Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians and their women easily constitute the bottom layer. They are beyond the umbra of development and economic hope.

The Justice Rajinder Sachar high powered committee established the underdevelopment—involuntary—of the Muslim community. If the government had had the courage to extend the terms of reference of the Sachar Committee, it would have made a similar finding for the Christian community despite its very visible but very thin creamy layer.

Even otherwise, in allocations for minorities, the Christians seem barely benefited in real terms. The fault lies partly with community leaders who have so far failed to inform the poor about the government programmes; but much of the fault lies also with the government for its lop-sided focus even among minorities and regions. This creates a wedge between minorities who are both victims of underdevelopment. It is time this bias is corrected, and minorities are benefited across the board despite the relative differences in their political clout.

FOR the record, the government’s allocations for the minorities, which we welcome, constitute almost a minor handout when compared with the total size of the Budget and the benefits that accrue to big industry, big farmers, and the rich and upper middle class.

A quick perusal of the Budget details will expose thoroughly the falsehood in the statement of one who aspires to be the next Prime Minister of India and who said: “I am surprised at the heavy communal overtones of the Budget. It is a throw-back to the Liaqat Ali days, the consequences of which are well known.”

For the record, the Union Finance P. Chidambaram’s 2008 Budget speech allocates a mere:

- 1. National Minorities Development and Finance Corporation—Rs 75 crores.
- 2. Post-matric scholarship—Rs 100 crores.
- 3. The allocation to the Ministry of Minority Affairs will be increased from Rs 500 crores in 2007-08 to Rs 1000 crores in 2008-09.
- 4. A multi-sectoral development plan for each of the 90 minority concentration districts will be drawn up at a cost of Rs 3780 crores. The allocation in 2008-09 will be Rs 540 crores.
- 5. A pre-matric scholarship scheme with an allocation of Rs 80 crores next year.
- 6. A scheme for modernising Madrasa education for which there is a provision of Rs 45.45 crores.
- 7. Two hundred and fiftysix branches of public sector banks in districts with substantial minority population.
- 8. More candidates belonging to the minority communities will be recruited to the Central Para-Military Forces.
- 9. A sum of Rs 60 crores to enhance the corpus fund of the Maulana Azad Education Foundation.

Much more should have been theirs by right.

The author is the National President, All India Catholic Union; Secretary-General, All India Christian Council; President, United Christian Action, Delhi. His e-mail is johndayal@vsnl.com

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