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Modi's own 'Sachar Panel' to survey status of minorities sans Muslims
Decision taken after members of Jain community complained about problems faced by other five notified minorities in India
Tuesday February 17, 2015 9:55 PM, Agencies

In what would be the first such study to understand problems faced by the India's minorities other than Muslims, the BJP government in New Delhi led by Narendra Modi has ordered a survey to assess the socio-economic conditions of Sikhs, Christians, Jains, Parsis and Buddhists.

Najma Heptullah

"This is the first survey of its kind involving the five minority communities except Muslims," minority affairs minister Najma Heptulla told The Telegraph.

The minister said there have been surveys like the one by the Sachar panel that focused only on Muslims. "But it is our responsibility to look into the problems of the other five minority communities."

Heptulla, the only Muslim minister in Narendra Modi's cabinet, said the problems faced by the five communities were different from those of the Muslims.

"The survey will help us know the problems of the five communities and formulate policy accordingly to address their problems", she added.

Soon after assuming office, Heptulla had kicked up a storm when she said the Parsis were the only minorities in India and cited their dwindling population to assert that her ministry would give utmost importance to stem the decline.

Over the past few months, however, her ministry has received complaints from other minority groupings, especially the Jains, demanding that the government address the problems faced by the other five notified minorities.

"We got several such complaints mostly from the Jain community... and held meetings before deciding on the new survey," a ministry official said.

It was only last year that Jains - who accounted for 0.4 per cent of the country's population, according to the 2001 census - were recognised as minorities by the then UPA government.

A representative body of Jains had moved the Supreme Court last December alleging discrimination by the centre and states in allocating benefits for the community and preferential treatment of a fellow minority grouping for political reasons.

The petition alleged that the government had adopted an "appeasement policy towards Muslims" and all the benefits were being given to them.

Last month, a bench headed by Chief Justice H.L. Dattu asked the Centre to examine within four months the Jain community's allegations.

National Minorities Commission chairperson Naseem Ahmad said "not only Muslims but all the other five communities were beneficiaries of welfare schemes".

"A delegation from the Jain community recently met us and we listened to their problems. They are also now under the protective umbrella of the commission," he said.

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