Addressing a gathering at the state-level Christmas function in Gurdaspur, Deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal on Monday said the Parkash Singh Badal government first included the poor Christian families in the shagun scheme for marriage of their daughters.
Greeting the Christian community ahead of Christmas, he said the scheme now offered Rs 15,000 as shagun to every Christian girl on her marriage as the girls of Scheduled Caste (SC) families were earlier getting.
He said it was only the Punjab government that celebrated the festivals of all faiths to help strengthen communal harmony in the country. He lauded Parkash Singh Badal for taking a decision in 1997 to celebrate the holy days of all religions in Punjab, adding that the chief minister always thought of the welfare of minority communities and the poor.
He said the Badal government was covering 30 lakh poor families in the state under its atta dal scheme by issuing them blue cards on the basis of which the poor would be issued health insurance cards to entitle them for free treatment up to Rs.30,000 a year.
He reiterated the government school students who scored 80 per cent or above marks in class X examination would get a grant of Rs 30,000 per year for pursuing further education.
He said under the Ashirwad Scheme, the government would bear all the expenses of education of students of poor families if they wanted to get a degree in medical science or engineering. He said the Badal government had made Monawar Masih, a Christian, the chairman of Punjab Minority Commission, equivalent to the rank of a cabinet minister.
Besides, two other Christians had been made the members of Punjab State Subordinate Services Selection Board, he informed. At the request of Christian leaders, Sukhbir announced that December 24 would be a holiday in the district.
Punjab Minorities Commission chairman Monawar Masih, former state ministers Sewa Singh Sekhwan, Nirmal Singh Kahlon and Capt Balbir Singh Bath were among those who addressed the gathering.
Chief parliamentary secretaries Gurbachan Singh Babbehali and Des Raj Dhugga and former minister Sucha Singh Langah were also present.
Earlier, Bishop Junas Masih offered a prayer. Bishops, pastors and fathers from various churches of different denominations attended the function.
1. Subhbir's helicopter landed at Sekha village, 7 km from Gurdaspur, and from proceeded to the venue by car
2. He reached the venue at 3.25 pm and remained there for around 20 minutes
3. After Christian leaders requested Sukhbir to announce a half-day holiday in government offices in Gurdaspur on Tuesday, the deputy CM said he would announce a full-day holiday in Gurdaspur district on Tuesday, adding that "agge kehra oh (government officers and employees) kam karde ne".
4. The venue of the function Government College Stadium was jam-packed with audience.
5. The weather remained favourable and the organisers heaved a sigh of relief as the day remained almost clear during the function.