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Bill on Equal Opportunities Commission may face further delay

Last Updated: Saturday, May 15, 2010 - 17:54

New Delhi: The Bill on setting up Equal
Opportunities Commission (EOC) may face further delay in the
wake of differences among various ministries and government
commissions over its mandate.

An indication to this effect was given by Minority
Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid who said the government has
to be "sensitive" about the concerns of the Commissions

"It`s true that the legislative proposal (for setting
up EOC) must come before Parliament. But there are certain
other issues. Unlike any other country in the world, we have a
large number of government commissions numbering 13. We have
to be sensitive to their concerns," Khurshid told reporters
here.

He was asked about the delay in setting up EOC,
promised by both the government and the Congress.
The Commission aims at providing affirmative action to
all disadvantaged groups by monitoring diversity index in both
private and public sector.

Absence of consensus among ministries has blocked any
forward movement on the Bill, which is currently under the
consideration of a Group of Ministers (GoM), chaired by
Defence Minister A K Antony despite its two marathon meetings
in January and March this.

In absence of any final view on it, the bill could not
be brought before the Cabinet, which is mandatory before
its introduction in Parliament.

The government had initially planned to introduce the
bill in Parliament in the last Winter session. Later, it was
proposed to be done in the Budget session. However, with sharp
differences over various aspects of the EOC, there are serious
doubts if it can be brought in the Monsoon session.

The third meeting of the GoM was slated for May 6 but
had to be cancelled due to engagement of ministers during the
Budget session which concluded on May 7.

The next date for the GoM meeting is yet to be fixed.
A number of commissions including National Commission for
Scheduled Castes and National Minority Commission have opposed
the setting up of EOC.

There are differences over its mandate and location
among Ministry of Social Justice, Women and Child Development
and Minority Affairs. In the UPA I, HRD ministry had also
opposed the idea.

Asserting that there are "no ego hassles", Khurshid
said "we are willing to work closely with all ministries".
He stressed that the government was according high priority to
setting up the EOC.
"The proposal for setting up the EOC is under active
consideration of the government. We are giving very high
priority to it. Working material for the EOC, i.e the national
data will be available to it as soon as it is formed
after the creation of National Data Council," the minister
said.

Khurshid said that nobody has a problem if EOC takes
care of only minorities but in his view the proposed
commission should have a larger platform.

"We want to focus on minorities but in a manner that
it creates a bond between minorities and other communities. We
are making forward moves and EOC will happen," he said.

Replying to a volley of questions on the issue of
reservation for Muslims, Khurshid said that any measure has to
be taken keeping in mind the 50 per cent ceiling prescribed by
the Supreme Court.

Asked about West Bengal government`s announcement to
give reservation to Muslims, Khurshid said that the limit of
reservation in the state allows 10 per cent quota, which they
have promised to Muslims. He said the situation in
other states like UP is, however, different "where the OBC
element is not so low".

On Rangnath Mishra Commission`s recommendation,
Khurshid said his ministry has taken a view, which he will
express when the Prime Minister asks.

He maintained that his ministry was right now
concentrating on Sachchar Committee report. He said it is yet
to reach a stage where elaborate discussions can take place on
Mishra report, which recommended reservation for Muslims.
Khurshid said that the government has plans to
introduce the Wakf Amendment Bill in Rajya Sabha in the next
session after it was passed by Lok Sabha in budget session.

He said that the amendment will streamline functioning
of Wakfs across the country and help check encroachment of
Wakf properties.

Khurshid said that National Level Monitors appointed
by the ministry will start field surveys from next month and
it will help check complaints of the misuse of funds meant for
minority welfare.

Listing out the achievements of his ministry in last
four years, Khurshid said it had started with five schemes but
is now implementing 12 schemes with four more on the anvil
this financial year.

He said that the budget allocation of the ministry
rose by 50 per cent in 2010-11 in comparison to 2009-10. He
also claimed that 98.3 per cent of the budget allocation of Rs
1,740 crore in the last financial year was spent.

Khurshid said that 1,759 public sector bank branches
were opened in minority concentrated districts and over one
lakh eight thousand crore rupees were given to minorities
under prior sector lending up to 2009-10.

"In the last two years, we have left our footprint
across the country," Khurshid said.

PTI

First Published: Saturday, May 15, 2010 - 17:54

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