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15% funds ‘quota’ for minorities

Calcutta, Nov. 21: Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s government has decided to introduce a 15 per cent reservation for the minority community in the financial outlay of several key departments.

In a notification issued today, the minority development and welfare department asked eight departments to earmark for minorities 15 per cent of the funds for various schemes.

The departments are finance, panchayat and rural development, urban development, municipal affairs, women and child development, school education, technical education and disaster management.

The schemes include all state and central ones such as the Integrated Child Development Services, Swarnajayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojna, Swarnajayanti Shahari Rozgar Yojna and Indira Awas Yojna.

“We have set targets for these departments to spend on the minority community from their schemes. We are the first state to make it official,” said minister of state for minorities development and welfare Abdus Sattar.

Officials said the step was taken in accordance with the Prime Minister’s 15-point programme recently circulated to state governments.

The Union cabinet has decided that 15 per cent of the funds might be earmarked, wherever possible, in relevant schemes for the minorities.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has urged all chief ministers to fix targets for each project under the 15-point programme for the welfare of minorities. In a letter dated September 10, he also emphasised the need to set up mechanisms to monitor the progress of their implementation.

A committee of secretaries will submit a report to the Union cabinet, putting in place a mechanism so that the programme receives “due” attention at the “highest” level.

According to the 2001 census, minority communities account for around 27 per cent of Bengal’s population.

State government officials said the step had been taken at the chief minister’s behest. “Around 15 days ago, the government took a policy decision to enforce this quota. The directive came from the chief minister himself,” an official of the minorities development and welfare department said.

A committee headed by Sattar will monitor the spending in the state. The panel will include three NGO representatives and three people dealing with minorities.

The departments have been asked to work out the “targets and outlays” for minorities and identify the beneficiaries under their schemes.

Areas inhabited by the minority communities would be identified in accordance with the 2001 census.

Places where the minorities have a concentration of 20 per cent or more are considered minority areas.

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