More initiatives coming for minorities, Dalits: Patil

February 25th, 2008 - 7:50 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Pratibha Patil

New Delhi, Feb 25 (IANS) President Pratibha Patil Monday highlighted the government’s initiatives and plans for the welfare of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes as well as minorities for equitable distribution of development benefits. In her maiden address to the joint session of two houses of parliament, marking the start of the budget session, Patil referred to initiatives taken for the welfare of minorities, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. But she made mo reference to the other backward classes (OBCs), which account for over 42 percent of the country’s population.

“Certain proportion of development projects will be located in the minority concentration areas and, wherever possible, 15 percent of targets and outlays under various schemes would be earmarked for the minorities,” she said.

Referring to the prime minister’s new 15-point programme, Patil said it aimed at “ensuring that benefits of the development programmes flow equitably to the minorities”.

“To improve the economic and educational status of the minorities, several programmes have been launched based on the recommendations of the (Justice Rajinder) Sachar committee report,” she said.

“The 11th Plan provides Rs.8 billion for merit-cum-means scholarship for professional courses, nearly Rs.33 billion for post- and pre-metric scholarship programmes for minority students, and Rs.37.8 billion for the development of 90 minority concentration districts,” Patil noted.

“The proportion of priority sector lending going to the minority communities will be stepped up from the present nine percent to 15 percent. These initiatives are important pillars of the architecture of inclusive growth,” Patil said.

About the government’s commitment to the welfare of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, Patil said: “Close to Rs.9 billion had been provided for scholarships for about three million children belonging to the Scheduled Castes and an amount of over Rs.2.25 billion had been provided for more than one million tribal children.”

“The Rajiv Gandhi National Fellowship and schemes for special coaching for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes students are being actively implemented,” she said. The Indira Gandhi National Tribal University would be founded at Amarkantak in Madhya Pradesh to promote studies and research in art, culture, tradition, languages, customs and medicinal systems of tribal communities.

She termed the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act as “landmark legislation aimed at correcting the historical deprivations of the tribal and traditional forest dwellers and restoring to them their rights on land”.

Regarding the development of OBCs, Patil said her government had placed great emphasis on the empowerment of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and OBCs through increased access to education.

However, there was no specific reference to the funds and initiatives meant for OBCs.

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