The Karnataka government on Thursday decided to withdraw a controversial social welfare department circular barring Scheduled Caste school students from being eligible for scholarships if found participating in protests and making the Aadhaar card mandatory.
The decision to withdraw the circular dated October 5, 2013 was taken after the opposition parties raised it in the state assembly on Thursday morning and staged a protest that forced the adjournment of the House for 10 minutes by Speaker Kagodu Thimappa.
The circular of the social welfare department had stated that the scholarships of Scheduled Caste students would be cancelled if they were found participating in any kind of protest events.
The circular also stated that Aadhaar cards were necessary for eligibility for scholarships.
The BJP has, in recent days, picked up the issue of the circular and used it as a political tool to question the Congress.
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The party has been projecting itself as champions of the Scheduled Caste community, which form its vote base.
The issue was first raised at a rally for BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi in Davangere on Tuesday by former BJP president K S Eshwarappa.
At the rally, Eshwarappa had criticized the Congress government of attempting to muzzle the rights of Scheduled Caste students by issuing the circular.
On Thursday, the issue was raised during zero hour in the state assembly by former BJP school education minister Vishweshwar Hegde Kaggeri.
The former minister attacked the government for making the Aadhaar card mandatory for scholarships and threatening to cut the scholarships of students found participating in protests.
He said students’ right to protest could not be taken away in a democracy.
He accused the government of attempting to impose emergency-like curbs on students.
Some Congress MLAs too criticised the circular, saying the clauses were unwarranted.
Minister for social welfare H Anjaneya, whose ministry issued the circular, tried to intervene and explain that the ban on protests has been in place since a 1977 circular was issued.
Not satisfied with the minister’s response, the opposition BJP, JDS and BSR Congress shouted slogans against the government and trooped into the well of the house and staged a dharna.
The Speaker adjourned the house for 10 minutes.
The state government later said it had decided to withdraw the controversial circular.