Union minister of minority affairs Najma Heptulla inaugurated a skill development centre at Mata Sundri Girls College here on Saturday. Six skill development centres have been set up in Punjab, including three in Mansa district, under Maulana Azad National Academy for Skills (MANAS) programme.
While speaking to mediapersons, the minister said the skill development centre would help in empowering the students of minority communities and would enable them to survive in an age of cut-throat competition.
“At the centres, students will be provided free-of-cost training with a stipend of `4,000’. It is a comprehensive programme of the Union government which aims at overall development of students from the minorities. School dropouts from Class 8 onwards can join these centres and they will be provided certificates equivalent to Class 8 or 10 after they successfully pass a skill development course. Students can pursue higher studies after this. All the centres will be connected via video conferencing,” she said.
On being asked about the recent budget cut for minority scholarship, the minister denied it and claimed that the ministry had been allocated more funds than during the previous regime of United Progressive alliance (UPA). “I categorically deny that there has been any budget cut in the minority scholarship. The budget for my ministry has been hiked from `2,101 to `3,872 crore. We have even received a loan of $50 million from the World Bank for the skill development programme,” she said.
Attacking the Congress-led UPA government, Heptulla said the National Minorities Development and Finance Corporation (NMDFC) was denied around `1,500 crore by the then-UPA government. “When we came to power, Prime Minister Narendra Modi immediately released 3,000 crore for the NMDFC,” she said.
Earlier, while addressing a gathering at the college, Heptulla said she had a special connection with Punjab and especially with Union food processing minister Harismrat Kaur Badal as Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was a cabinet colleague of Harsimrat’s father Satyajit Singh Majithia.
“Maulana Azad had once even contested the elections from Amritsar. Working on his vision, we want to uplift the minority communities of the society,” she said.
“I want to debunk this misconception that Sikhs, being a majority in Punjab, cannot be termed as a minority community. Communities have been declared a minority on the basis of their numbers in the country. Congress had established a wrong precedent that minorities symbolise only the Muslim community. The present government wants to send out a message that minority communities include six religions, viz. Sikh, Jain, Parsi, Christian and Buddhist,” the minister said.
Heptulla also said that through this programme, the government wanted to empower the students studying in madrasas also. “As only religious teaching is not sufficient, we have connected gurdwaras and madrasas under this programme for the skill development of students of minority communities,” she said.
The inauguration programme was attended by Union food processing minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Rajya Sabha MP Balwinder Singh Bhunder, Mansa MLA Prem Mittal, pastor Samual Sidhu (representative of Christian community), Sardar HR Mofar (representative of Muslim community), Sunil Jain (representative of Jain community) and others.