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Law to crack down on bias on govt table

New Delhi, Jan. 29. Members of minority communities might soon be able to take complaints of discrimination to a panel that will have the powers of a civil court.

A central minister today said the government would bring in a law to set up the proposed Equal Opportunity Commission, as the Sachar committee had recommended.

Minority affairs minister K. Rahman Khan said the law ministry had recently cleared a bill and a note had been sent to the Prime Minister’s Office.

“We are hopeful that the new bill will be passed in the forthcoming Parliament session scheduled to begin from February 5. Once it becomes a law, any member of a minority community who feels discriminated against can complain to the commission and action will be taken accordingly,” Khan told The Telegraph on the sidelines of an event to inaugurate the National Waqf Development Corporation Limited.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi were among those who attended the event at Vigyan Bhavan.

Under the proposed law, it will be mandatory for all companies, including private firms, to do a religion-based headcount of their workforce. “Once the bill becomes a law, it will become mandatory for companies to reveal details of their staff, including their religion and caste,” said a senior official of the minority affairs ministry.

The ministry had drafted the bill after consulting other ministries and several corporate houses across the country. It was later approved by a group of ministers.

The commission is aimed at promoting diversity in education and employment by exercising the powers of a civil court and checking discrimination based on gender, religion, caste, race, birthplace and language.

“We keep on receiving complaints of discrimination from members of minority communities and this is why this proposed law will play a significant role in overcoming discrimination,” said Wajahat Habibullah, chairman of the National Commission for Minorities.

The Sachar committee, appointed by UPA I, had highlighted the poor socio-economic condition of minorities, especially Muslims, and their extreme backwardness and under-representation in government jobs.

Some officials, however, said the bill might generate controversy. “Since it is a sensitive matter, the Opposition will accuse the government of appeasing the minorities ahead of the Lok Sabha election. But we have to do it as it is a long-pending issue,” the minority ministry official said.

Inaugurating the Waqf development corporation, Singh said Waqf assets had the potential to generate huge returns which could be used for the socio-economic development of the community.

The Centre had recently enacted the Waqf (Amendment) Act, 2013, to protect Wakf properties from misuse.

Soon after the Prime Minister’s speech today, a member from among the audience created an ugly scene in protest against the government’s delay in implementing the recommendations of the Sachar committee. He was bundled out of the auditorium by police.

Sonia cautioned people against forces trying to weaken the country’s secular ethos. She also indicated that the communal violence bill would be “tabled in Parliament soon”.