Says religious harmony, not mere tolerance, is the bedrock of India’s secularism

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday cautioned the nation against those who work against India’s “secular thought by attempting to redefine secularism.”

Stating that pluralism is the keystone of India’s civilisation and culture, he said “religious harmony, not mere tolerance,” is the bedrock of India’s secularism.

Dr. Singh was addressing the inaugural function of the annual conference of the State Minorities Commissions organised by the National Commission for Minorities to assess the impact of the Prime Minister’s 15-Point Programme for the Welfare of Minorities.

Referring to efforts made by the United Progressive Alliance Government to mainstream minorities, Dr. Singh said priority sector lending to minorities by banks has increased from about Rs. 59,000 crore in 2007-08 to about Rs. 1,85,000 crore in 2012-13. Also, the share of minorities in recruitment in Central government and Central Public Sector Enterprises has gone up from 6.9 per cent in 2006-07 to 7.4 per cent in 2012-13.

And, to further decentralise the implementation of the Multi-Sectoral Development Programme (MSDP) as per the recommendations of the Sachar Committee which looked into the socio-economic and educational status of Muslims in India, he said the Government had identified minority constituted blocks and towns.

Across the country, 710 minority concentration blocks had been identified. Besides, 66 minority concentration towns have been identified for the same. And, according to Secretary to the Ministry of Minority Affairs Lalit K. Panwar, there is a plan to identify minority clusters where there is a minority concentration of more than 50 per cent.

Dwelling on the measures taken by the Government, Minority Affairs Minister K. Rehman Khan said efforts were on to set up an Equal Opportunity Commission to ensure equal access to opportunity, entitlements/rights to deprived groups belonging to minority communities. Also, the Government was looking into the recommendations of the Ranganath Misra Commission to identify socially and economically backward sections among religious and linguistic minorities.

Addressing the session on welfare schemes for minorities, political scientist Zoya Hasan said the Sachar Committee provided a way out of the “deprivation-trap for Muslims” through inclusive development and mainstreaming of the community.

Critiquing the 15-point programme, Ms. Hasan identified the absence of institutional mechanisms and implementing staff at the district and block levels as one of the main constraints.

More In: National | News