Bill on Equal Opportunities Commission may face further delay
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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.


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

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