Christian leaders in India have welcomed a government plan to provide free coaching to religious minority students to help them prepare for civil service entry exams. They hope it will ultimately mean more Christians, including from tribal minorities, are able to enter the social mainstream. Presentation Sister Anastasia Gill, a member of the Delhi Minorities Commission, described the move as encouraging. The civil service examinations are noted for being among the toughest in the country. Private institutes charge US$500-3000 a year to coach aspirants for a series of two written tests and an interview. Those who succeed become part of India’s elite network of bureaucrats, the Indian Administrative Service. Sister Gill said the coaching program, if properly implemented, would be of particular benefit to poor Christian aspirants from indigenous groups and the disadvantaged Dalit community, formerly known as untouchables. Federal minister for minority affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the government is working with educational institutions to provide the special free coaching. He wanted students from religious minorities
such as Muslims and Christians to shed what he saw as an "inferiority complex" in order to empower themselves. Although Muslims form 12 percent of India’s 1.2 billion people, their representation in the bureaucracy and police force is relatively low. Naqvi said his ministry is already providing free coaching through arrangements with some leading institutes and as a result a record 52 Muslim candidates passed the civil service exams in 2016. Sister Gill, a Supreme Court lawyer, said that in the Indian political context, the word “minority” often referred to Muslims. It was unfortunate that many schemes
designed for minorities did not reach Christians, who could be slow to take advantage of them, she said. Father Z. Devasagaya Raj, secretary of the Indian bishops’ office for indigenous and Dalit people, told ucanews.com that he will encourage deserving Christians to apply for free coaching. He said from 2016 his commission offered help of 10,000 rupees (some US$150) to civil service exam students of Dalit origin
to buy study materials.
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“But so far only one student has approached us,” he said. Dalit and indigenous people form some 60 percent of India’s 25 million Christians, mostly living in remote villages. Ritika Minj, a Christian aspirant from an indigenous community, said she joined a coaching center three months back but some of her poor friends could not do so because of the prohibitive fee. “Certainly, the government scheme will help many minorities students,” she said.