New York, July 5 (UNI) The fifth International Convention of Dalits and Minorities began here today with a fervent appeal to the Manmohan Singh-led UPA government to take immediate measures for empowerment of the marginalised societies, including dalits and Muslims, to enable them to play an active and effective role in the decision-making process.
''It is a stark reality that substantial sections of our society, particularly dalits and Muslims, have been subjected to indignities and various socio-economic disabilities,'' Lok Jana Shakti Party Chief and Chemical and Fertiliser Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said while inaugurating the convention.
Over 400 delegates from various parts of India and the world, including Nepal, Sri Lanka, the United Kingdom and the United States are attending the three-day event, which will adopt New York Declaration to unveil its future plan of actions for achieving empowerment of the underprivileged people.
Deputy Speaker of the Lok Sabha Charanjit Singh Atwal, social activist Teesta Setalvad, prominent Muslim leader Syed Shahbuddin, Ram Das Atwale, Member Parliament Aziz Burney, Editor of Rashtriya Sahara Santosh Bharti and several others are participating in the convention being organised by the American Federation of Muslims of Indian Origin (AFMI).
In his speech, Mr Paswan said the current plight of dalits and minorities is pathatic. ''These communities have remain socially and economically backward, even though the Indian Constitution provides them equal opportunities of growth and development,'' he said.
The Minister said the policy of temporisation will only perpetuate the gross injustice against the underprivileged people.
''There is an urgent need for the government to take corrective steps for the socio-economic development of these deprived people,'' he said.
Deputy Speaker Mr Atwal said reservation is one of the important instruments for securing socio-economic equality to enable the vulnerable sections of the society to enjoy benefits of development.
The government needs to bring legislations for providing reservation to the poor and underprivileged in the private sector.
He said the role of the public sector is shrinking rapidly in view of the liberalisation policies of the government.
Dr A S Nakadar, Trustee of the AFMI stressed the importance of education, which would help increasing the socio-economic capital of not only of the individuals, but of communities and countries as a whole. ''The level of educational attainments of minorities and supressed class is must for their empowerment,'' he said.
Prof. Mungekar, Member of the Planning Commission, said, ''still 42 per cent of the people in India are below the poverty line, despite the economic development witnessed by the country in the past sixty years.'' He said the minorities got marginalised after the partition because of the unequal opportunities structure in the country.
He also lamented the political parties for not giving adequate reservation to women saying the powerful political class is not ready to surrender their powers to women.
Mr Aziz Burney said Muslims have suffered immensely after the partition. He lamented the divisive and communal parties for linking muslims with terrorism saying the muslims were rather victims.
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