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Charter to the Planning Commission – A Christian Perspective for the 12th Five Year Plan

June 14, 2011 by  
Filed under lead story, Persecution

Charter to the Planning CommissionA National Consultations of Christian leaders presided over by the Archbishop of Delhi, Vincent M Concessao and attended by NGOs and community representatives, evolved the following Charter to be presented to the Planning Commission now drafting the 12th Five Year Plan. The Charter has been presented to the Secretary, Ministry for Minority Affairs and Chairman, Working Group on Minorities for the 12th Five Year Plan.

  

  1. Development is impossible, and has no meaning, unless the people feel there is peace with justice. The State must therefore reassure Minorities on the Rule of Law by curbing Communalism, prosecuting hate crimes and those guilty of violence.  And Government, in word and deed, must make it clear that political considerations and extraneous issues do not dilute its affirmative action for the disempowered, the underprivileged, and the under-developed amongst the myriad communities that make the secular fabric of democratic India.
  2. Government must therefore earnestly implement the Prime Minister’s 15 Point Programme in full, in letter and spirit, and in an absolutely  transparent and equitable manner.
  3. This is not possible unless Government conducts a comprehensive survey of the social, economic and development condition of the Christians in India. This must be done in every State and Union Territory as was done by the Justice Rajindar Sachhar Committee in the case of Muslims, and as soon as possible.
  4. Government must also ensure that the proposed Caste-Religion-BPL survey correctly registers the identity and situation of Dalit Christians who face acute caste discrimination in society, specially in the villages where they live in different states. This is not a matter of merely employment in government departments, but has larger ramifications in assuring Dalit Christians a restoration of their political and human rights right from the Panchayat raj level. 
  5. The Land rights of Dalit Christians and other Forest dwellers must be protected, and they must be safeguarded against displacement by motivated district officials.
  6. Government must honestly implement Constitutional Provisions (including freedom to Practice, Profess and Propagate Faith; and provisions of Articles 25 to 30). This has become imperative because various States have been, for instance, misusing and abusing provisions of the Right to Education Act to harass Christian-run institutions. Simultaneously, it has become exceedingly difficult for Christian organisations to procure land at concessional rates for building new schools and Medicare centres. In several states, Departments of Education have delayed official grants, threatening the very existence of institutions.  Government must open – and assist in opening — more hostels in Tribal and Dalit Christian areas as residential facilities are a catalyst in the education process.
  7. Financial assistance is essential to encourage educational institutions in medical, engineering, Information technology, management and engineering colleges. Assistance to set up institutions for skill enhancement to assist those not able to complete higher education, or those in mid career, including the provision of grants, scholarships and zero-interest loans. Financial assistance must also be provided to train educated youth from the community for competing in UPSC and state service commissions, in law and medical courses, and for higher education abroad. It is imperative that Government set up a Christian Education Financial Corporation with an adequate corpus for this. Such a corporation will give Institutional grants, individual scholarships, and where required, zero-interest loans to students.
  8. The scholarship schemes of the centre are inadequate, casually implemented and not properly targeted as far as the Christian community is concerned. The Plan must ensure that the scholarships flow to the needy. If need be, through special vehicles. Church and community institutions must be empowered and financially assisted as is being done in the case of Madrasas for the Muslim community  including special must be created to assist needy scholars getting the scholarships, etc.
  9. Security is of essence. Violence against Christians in Kandhamal [Orissa], Karnataka and a dozen other states has impacted on the confidence of the community. In many states, violence against house churches and religious personae is a daily affair. Therefore a revised Communal Violence Prevention, Control and Rehabilitation and Reparations for Victims must be introduced in Parliament at the earliest.
  10. Government must urgently formulate Special Income Generation and housing schemes for minorities in rural and Tribal areas to cover farmers, landless peasantry, agriculture labour, fishermen and boatmen, and traditional craftsmen. This is addition to existing general income and insurance schemes which in practice often leave the Christian community bereft of assistance.
  11. Government must Implement Economic programmes and credit and financial programmes to spark entrepreneurial activity in the community, and generate self employment. Special financial packages must be devised to encourage entrepreneurship at all levels in every state so that educated and gifted young men and women do not join the long queue of the unemployed or the under employed but can set up their own businesses and generate further employment.
  12. Government must expand the National Minorities Development Finance Corporation and constantly monitor the transparency of its disbursements.
  13. There must also be transparency in appointing members of various National and State-level Commissions with adequate representation of the Christian community.  Christians must be considered for Chairmanship of such commissions and organisations meant for minorities.
  14. Government must ensure appropriate representation of Christians, specially in civil, military, administrative and judicial services at the national and provincial levels.
  15. Government must bring forth suitable legislation to end the terrorizing of the community by the so called Freedom of Religion Acts in Orissa, MP, Himachal, Chhatisgarh, and Arunachal. The routine harassment of the community, specially of the Clergy, in VISA provisions and the implicit bigotry in FCRA administration must end forthwith.
  16. The government must involve diverse sections of society in evolving its health and Population Policies so that the Church is taken into confidence while evolving such policies and financial packages. Considering the micro minority population of Christians, there must be no discrimination against families with more than two children, and state assistance must not be limited to families with two children only.
  17. A large number of young girls work as domestic and migrant labour. Adequate legal and welfare protection must be provided to these working women in the unorganized sector through suitable legislation.

Need of a holistic vision of the Tribal society and not segmented or stratified in terms of Christian Adivasis and non-Christian Sarna Adivasis, Adivasi men and Adivasi women, or Adivasi men and women on the one hand and Adivasi children on the other. Christian Adivasi problems are Adivasi problems in general as far as ‘development’ is concerned (education, health, mortality rate, human rights, etc.) For instance Mid-day meal for children. Still there are dropouts. Why? The child cannot concentrate on his studies if he is provided with the mid-day meal but his siblings and parents go hungry. Children carrying half of the mid-day food back home for their siblings and parents.

– John Dayal
* Pics: Ms. Tehmina Arora, EFI Advocacy Director; CNI General Secretary Alwan Masih; Union Minority Affairs Secretary, Vivek Mehrotra IAS; National Commision for Minorities Chairman, Wajahat Habibullah; Archbishop Vincent Concessao; Auxillary bishop, Franco Mulakkal, All India Christian Council Vice Chairman, Rev Puothang Haokip and Dr John Dayal

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