New Delhi, Jan 16: The Centre was looking into the demand of minorities for reservation in educational institutions and government services, Home Minister Shivraj Patil said here today.
Mr Patil also indicated that the Government was not averse to the idea of giving land to landless members of the minorities, just as it had been given to the Scheduled catses, Scheduled Tribes and recently to the forest dwellers. Besides, he sought to reassure the minorities that their constitutional right to propagate their religion would be protected.
Referring to the demand for reservation, he said, ''If something is needed to be done it should be done.'' ''We have to apply our mind as to how best to do this, and the Government is looking into this aspect,'' The Home Minister said speaking after inaugurating the annual Conference of State Minorities Commission here.
He, however, said in today's era of liberalisation, minorities should explore aveneues of self-employment like setting up their own industrial units or practicing some profession for which funds should be given to them on easy terms and long-term basis.
Mr Patil also laid emphasis on opening of more educational institutions, whether by the government or by by private players so that everybody could have access to education. He added it was the duty of the Government to provide full opportunities of development to minorities and protect their life property and culture.
''In some countries, citizens have the right only to profess but not to propagate their religion, but in our country they have the right also to propagate their religion, and this right will be protected,'' he said.
''The Minorities need assurance of physical security and equality of treatment from the state. Let us not leave them behind in our march towards making India an economic superpower,'' Mr Patil said. Pointing out to the increasing communal polarisation, he said the Government would deal severely with perpetrators of such crimes. The Home Minister also assured that the Government was taking steps to implement the provisions of the Sachar Commitee report and also the Prime Minister's 15-point programme for the minorities.
Mr Patil, who digressed frequently from his written speech, said the Governmenmt would also look into the demand of the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) for investigative powers, if it helps them in their job. He asked the NCM to give their suggestions to the Commission in this regard.
Earlier , NCM Chairperson Mohammad Shafi Qureshi in his welcome remarks, had demanded more staff and powers, and constitutional status for the Commission.
He also said that he was dissapointed to find the absence of a minority sub-paln, as recommended by the NCM, in the 11th Plan document.
He stressed that concertEd efforts were required to implement the Sachar Committee report in letter and spirit. Mr Qureshi emphaised on the need fOR more coordination and cooperation between the State Minorities Commissions and the NCM and welcomed any initiatives in this direction.
Planning Commission Member Dr Balachndra Mungekar was also present on the occasion, besides representatives of various ministries and other NCM Members.