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Tribal Catholic gets post in India's new cabinet

Church leaders hail John Barla's appointment as minister of state for minority affairs

Tribal Catholic gets post in India's new cabinet

John Barla started his political carrier as a tea farm workers’ leader. (Photo: Wikipedia) 

Church leaders and activists have welcomed the appointment of a tribal Catholic as India’s new minister of state for minority affairs.

John Barla, an MP who represents Alipurduar in West Bengal state for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), was part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s latest cabinet reshuffle on July 7.

“We are quite delighted after John was given the chance to look after minority affairs and will be directly responsible for day-to-day activities of minorities’ groups. We hope he does justice to his responsibilities,” Father Nicholas Barla, secretary of the Indian bishops' commission for tribal affairs, told UCA News.

“It feels good when someone from the same community is chosen as a federal minister, and we pray and wish him good luck.

“Since John himself belong to an Oran tribe, he is the right person who can understand the sufferings, difficulties and socioeconomic condition of the tribal people. It will be easy for him to work for the downtrodden people.

“We have a big list of demands concerning tribal rights and we hope the new minister will be able to address all these issues.”

I will work for the people of my country, especially for the tea laborers and minorities of my constituency

John Barla, 46, started his political carrier as a tea farm workers’ leader. He was elected to the Lok Sabha — the lower house of India’s parliament — in 2019.

He started work in the tea gardens at the tender age of 14, according to media reports.

"I will work for the people of my country, especially for the tea laborers and minorities of my constituency,” John Barla told reporters.

“People are bit scared because of the current government in my state, but we want peace. And peace will come through development.”

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Mukti Prakash Tirkey, editor of a weekly newspaper on tribal affairs published from New Delhi, said Barla’s appointment “is a well-deserved gift to him from his party as he has worked tirelessly among the tribal people, especially among the tea tribes.”

He added: “The minister will be able to do justice to his fellow brothers and sisters as he understands the nitty-gritty of the voiceless people whom he represents.

“John has worked hard for the rights of tea garden workers in North Bengal and Assam for more than 20 years. He can bring the issues related to them to the national platform.”

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