Govt steers clear of SP's demand on proportionate reservation for Muslims



New Delhi: The government on Monday steered clear of SP's demand for proportionate reservation to Muslims but expressed the hope that its decision to provide 4.5 per cent quota to minorities will see the light of the day despite Andhra Pradesh High Courts' rejection.

"What can I say if their party says something. A demand can be made for anything...The promise of Congress made in its election manifesto (to provide reservation to backward Muslims) is our first priority....We never talked about proportonate reservation. We never made any such promise," Minority Affairs Minister K Rahman Khan told reporters here.

He was responding to questions on Samajwadi Party leader Ramgopal Yadav's demand in Rajya Sabha that Muslims should be given reservation in proportion to their population through an amendment in the Constitution.

Khan said that he wrote a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last month drawing his attention towards the apprehensions among the minorities over terror cases and urging him to ensure speedier trial of the cases.

Regarding apprehensions raised by minority groups about some of the provisions of the Centre's Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), Khan said that he has brought the concerns of the minorities regarding this to the notice of ministries concerned and was hopeful that they will take steps to address them.

Khan said that he is "hopeful" that the government will be able to convince the Supreme Court on the merits of its decision to carve out a 4.5 per cent sub quota for minorities out of the OBC reservation quota of 27 per cent.

The Andhra Pradesh High Court had rejected the Centre's decision on the sub quota while the Supreme Court also made observations against it.

However, Khan said, "We are not doing anything except taking all the minorities, who are already getting benefits under Mandal Commission and putting them together. It's grouping them. It is scientific way of giving it."

Khan said that similar kind of reservation model is working in Karnataka and, hence, "There cannot be different yardsticks for Karnataka and the rest of the country."

He said that even the Andhra Pradesh High Court had "not said that quota is illegal" and that the government's decision on the sub quota is "scientific" but there may be some "lapse in presentation" and that will be set right.

"I am hopeful because I think we will be able to address the Supreme Court's doubts. We will be able to provide them the data (related to backwardness) as they demanded," he said.

Regarding new initiatives being taken by his Ministry, Khan said that he is planning to set up separate consultative bodies within his Ministry to look after each of the five notified religious minority communities as the requirements of each minority community is different and needed to be approached differently.

He said that the government has completed the formalities to bring the new Wakf Amendment Bill before Parliament after incorporating the recommendations of the Select Committee of Rajya Sabha and it will be brought soon.

He, at the same time, added that it was not possible to bring it in this session now with just few days left for it to conclude.

The Minister said he is hopeful that he will also be able to introduce the long-pending Equal Opportunity Bill in the next session as well as complete the process of having diversity index and setting up of national data bank, three major recommendations of the Sachar Committee that went into backwardness of Muslims.

He acknowleged that monitoring of the schemes is a "big challenge" and that the states do not hold the meetings of the monitoring committees to track the performance of the implementation of the schemes meant for minorities.

Khan said that the proposed restructuring of the National Minority Development Corporation will widen its ambit to enmpower it for direct lending and creating two more subsidiaries within it while the Maulana Azad Educational Foundation (MAEF) will now have greater involvement in expansion of education among the minorities.

PTI