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Delhi and Modi in minority tussle

New Delhi, Nov. 13: The Centre will move the Supreme Court seeking implementation of the Prime Minister’s 15-point welfare scheme for minorities in Gujarat after the Narendra Modi government termed the plan discriminatory and refused to adopt it.

Gujarat is the only state that has opposed the programme, announced in 2008 following the Sachar Committee report that highlighted the community’s plight.

“We will move the apex court against the Gujarat government. All other states are implementing the scheme, which is fully funded by the Centre,” minority affairs minister K. Rahman Khan told The Telegraph.

The Congress leader, who took over from Salman Khurshid in last month’s ministry reshuffle, said the plea would be filed after next month’s state polls. “We will move the court only after the elections because of the model code of conduct,” said Khan, who visited Gujarat last week and met community leaders.

The programme recently received a 137 per cent increase in allocation for the Twelfth Five-Year Plan (2012-2017) over the previous plan (2007-12). The sum went up to Rs 17,323 crore from Rs 7,283 crore.

The plan seeks to foster the welfare of the community through panchayats, urban development, municipal affairs, women and child development, school and technical education, disaster management and finance.

A tussle is brewing on another scheme, too. That plan, also announced by the Centre in 2008, offers pre-matriculation scholarships to poor minority students. The Modi government has opposed this on the same ground — that it discriminates against other communities and, therefore, is against the Constitution.

A Bhuj resident moved Gujarat High Court to have the scheme enforced but the verdict upheld the state’s stand that the scheme violates the constitutional principle of equality before law. “There cannot be any scope for conferring monetary benefits based on religion,” the court said in its ruling last month.

Khan suggested a two-track approach to overcome the hurdle — rope in NGOs to implement the scheme and file review pleas. “We will file a review petition both in the high court and the Supreme Court seeking implementation of the scheme. We are also finalising the list of NGOs. We would seek court permission to release 75 per cent of the amount to beneficiaries on our own even if the state fails to give the rest,” he said.

The scheme is targeted at students whose parents’ annual incomes are below Rs 1 lakh. The Centre gives 75 per cent of the amount while the states bear the rest.

In the high court, the Centre had argued that all other states had adopted the plan. The Modi government countered that by arguing it is not compulsory for states to implement all central schemes. The state also asserted it had several schemes of its own for the poor and would not offer benefits on religious lines.

Khan pointed to another perceived shortcoming — the Modi government’s failure to set up a state minorities commission despite several requests. “All other states have such commissions but the Gujarat government has failed to act. Since it is the responsibility of the state to form the commission the Centre can’t do much.”

The minister questioned Modi’s claim that the condition of Muslims in Gujarat is better than in other states. “It is just propaganda. I visited some Muslim-dominated areas and was shocked to see the plight of community members.”