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India's Christians 'sidelined' from government benefits

Official policies need to change so community can access welfare schemes reporter, Bhopal reporter, Bhopal

Updated: February 29, 2016 10:45 AM GMT
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India's Christians 'sidelined' from government benefits

An Indian man makes a living selling lemon water as seen in this 2013 file image. Christians receive little in the way of government assistance in India. (Photo by Christopher Joseph)

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Christians in India said they want state and federal authorities to offer fair and equitable job and education opportunities to all religious minorities.

"Government self-employment schemes for minorities, for example, are not reaching out to the Christians at all," said Sujit William, addressing the Rashtriya Isai Mahasangh or national Christian forum in Bhopal on Feb. 22. The forum's national president said the government has "made such regulations that it is almost impossible for Christians to benefit from them." 

The Indian government has classified Christians, Muslims, Sikhs and Jains as belonging to minority communities on account of their low populations and designed quotas such as scholarships, interest-free loans among others to promote social and economic standards.

However, Father Anand Muttungal, forum founder and coordinator, said Christians are "systematically being sidelined" from benefiting from government quotas meant for minority communities.  

Both federal and the state governments, who are expected to promote the interests of weaker communities are discriminating against Christians, he added.

For example more than 100,000 student scholarships were intended for Christians in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh but Christians received only around 3,000. "And those numbers were acquired with great difficulty," said Father Muttungal.

"More than 90 percent of these benefits go to Muslims, the biggest minority community [in India]," Father Muttungal said.

India's 172 million Muslims comprise 14 percent of the country's 1.2 billion population. The second largest minority, Christians are just 24 million, or 2.3 percent of the population.

Other religious minorities such as Buddhists and Jains are too negligible that they don't get any benefits, forum officials said, stressing the need for the government to allot a quota of benefits to minority communities with equitable distribution.

The forum demanded the government make the necessary changes so to help the community make the most from the government's welfare schemes.

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