Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Saturday exhorted people to fight against communal forces. A law would soon be passed to prevent crimes against women, she said.

“Our speciality lies in the fact that we are secular. It is our asset and the Congress party is fully committed to protect it [the ideology],” she said, while speaking at the foundation stone-laying of an engineering and technology institute in the name of the late Congress leader and former Union Minister, A.B.A. Ghani Khan Choudhury here.

“For the first time, a Ministry has been set up for the minorities. The recommendation of the Sachar Committee is being implemented. In 90 districts of the country with high population of minorities, special development packages are being given,” Ms. Gandhi said, adding, that Malda was among the 90 districts.

The Prime Minister’s 15-point programme for the welfare of the minorities was upgraded and Manmohan Singh was himself monitoring its implementation, she said.

An extension campus of the Aligarh Muslim University was set up in Murshidabad district, Ms. Gandhi said, adding that the district was chosen for a scheme to provide vocational training under the National Rural Livelihood Mission.

“A law will soon be passed to prevent crimes against women,” she said, listing pro-women schemes like the setting up of an all-women’s bank and the “Nirbhaya Fund” announced recently.

Stating that she had fulfilled the promise made to the people of Malda in 2008 to set up the institute in the memory of Choudhury, she hoped that the institute would help in checking the migration of people from Malda and adjoining areas to other parts of the country for work.

Senior State Congress leader and Minister of State for Urban Development Deepa Dasmunsi described the absence of any State government representative at an event where both Ms. Gandhi and the Prime Minister were present, as “lack of political courtesy.”

Trinamool Congress Minister Krishnendu Narayan Choudhury, however, refuted the allegations and said that he had received both Ms. Gandhi and Dr. Singh at the helipad as a representative of the State government.