Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil on Wednesday said the government could explore the possibility of reservations for minorities in education and government jobs, a remark that is being linked to the demand to extend the quota benefit to Dalit Muslims and Christians.
Patil, who was speaking at the annual conference of state minority commissions, did not elaborate on the contours of the reservations that he had in mind. Human Resource Development minister Arjun Singh did later in the day, however, make it clear that there had been no decision on reservation on religious basis.
Incidentally, the Home Minister had reportedly assured the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council last month that the Congress favoured granting reservation to all Dalits, regardless of their religion. An official suggested Patil’s reference to quotas for minorities were in this context.
Addressing the conference on Wednesday, Patil said reservation has been provided for Scheduled Castes and Schedules Tribes in educational institutions and government jobs.
Now there is a demand increasingly from minorities to see that seats are reserved in universities, colleges as well as government services. “The question is can it be done? I think we shall have to apply our minds to this aspect and try to find out how it can be done in the best possible manner,” Patil said.
The Home Minister assured whatever can be done for this purpose should be done.
“We cannot say it cannot be done. Human ingenuity can be used in order to help the people who should be helped in these areas. And that is the attitude of the government,” he said.
The government has already proposed to set up an Equal Opportunities Commission with nomination procedure for the political involvement of the minorities at the grassroots. The government also intends to set aside a portion of priority sector loans, especially in agriculture and industry, for minorities.
He further said that though there were enough plans and funds for uplift of minorities there was not enough manpower to implement them. “I am not sure whether we have the machinery to implement these plans and whether the training required to implement them is available,” he said National Commission for Minorities Chairperson MS Qureshi said despite the best efforts of the government, the benefits of various schemes have not reached the minorities.
“The Eleventh Plan document is a laudable attempt to set right the deficiencies in empowering the minorities. But it is disappointing to note that the recommendation of the commission to create a minority sub-plan does not find place in the document,” he said.
The solution lies in reaching out to the members of the minority communities directly since they are seldom aware of the development programmes, he said.