Special Correspondent

It will improve their lot: Buddhadeb

"The [Sachar] report does not include the distribution of land to minorities which was an important feature of the land reforms initiated in our State... "

KOLKATA: West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is hopeful of a "sub-Plan" for the minorities being put into effect in the 11th Five-Year Plan period.

Mr. Bhattacharjee has taken up the matter with both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, and is hopeful of a favourable response to the idea of a sub-Plan for minorities, he told The Hindu recently.

"I have told them it is high time the Government comes up with a sub-Plan for minorities like that for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. ... I think they are going to do that. It will help a lot to improve the quality of life for the minorities if we have a sub-Plan and special funds for them", Mr. Bhattacharjee said.

He also regretted that the Sachar Committee report "does not touch on the land issue."

"The report does not include the distribution of land to minorities which was an important feature of the land reforms initiated in our State when land was distributed to a large number of minorities," Mr. Bhattacharjee said.

Land acquisition

The Chief Minister said that it was unfortunate that there were attempts by certain forces to project the issue of land acquisition for future industry in the State as a "communal problem."

"This is not correct. It is a very sensitive issue and we will have to be cautious in our campaigning against the notion being spread that what the Government is doing is going against the minorities," Mr. Bhattacharjee said.

He reiterated that the State Government was taking special steps for improving the socio-economic conditions of the minorities "which are not up to the mark."

"We have engaged the Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata, to study the social economic conditions of the minorities and are waiting for the report. In the meantime we are revamping the Minorities Development Corporation for helping new entrepreneurs set up trade. Admitting that there was a very small percentage of minorities in the government services he said ways were being explored to improve the numbers.

Rehab policy

The State Government is also thinking of a "comprehensive rehabilitation policy [for those affected in the land acquisition process] which would vary from site to site" to go side by side with its drive towards industrialisation.

"The Government has a moral responsibility" to rehabilitate those being affected in the land acquisition process, Mr. Bhattacharjee said.