Maharashtra became the second state in India to grant minority status to the Jewish community in the country. As per the 2001 census, there are 4,650 Jews in the country of whom 2,466 are in Maharashtra.
West Bengal, which has a Jewish population of 43, had a decade back bestowed minority status to the community.
The community has now become a notified minority along with Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs, Parsis and Jains. The status will now make the community eligible for various development schemes that the state launches for the minority community.
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It will now get benefits of merit-cum-means scholarship, pre-matric scholarship, post-matric scholarship, coaching and allied schemes and multi-sectoral development programme that the government runs for minorities. Educational institutes run by Jews will now be eligible to attain the benefit of minority status including reserving seats for members of their own community.
“In lieu of the proposal that the state had received from the Jewish community, we formally decided to grant them minority status. They will be eligible for all benefits given to notified minorities,” Principal Secretary of Minority department, Jayashree Mukherjee, said.
Interestingly Maharashtra has beaten the Centre over granting minority status to Jews. A proposal had been submitted by the Indian Jewish Federation to the Central Government too to grant the community minority status in April this year. The Ministry had assured the community that it would take a decision on granting minority status to the community.
Leaders from Maharashtra across party lines including NCP’s Supriya Sule, BJP’s Hina Gavit and Shiv Sena’s Anil Desai had taken up the issue of Jews in the recently concluded Lok Sabha session.
The granting of this status in Maharashtra lays the ground for bestowing similar status across the country.
Even though the community is relatively well off, its numbers are dwindling in the country with many migrating. Members of the community feel that government backing will help strengthen the Jewish community in India and will provide help to the community in securing its property spread across various regions of the state.
“We are very pleased with this decision and this will help in strengthening the Jewish community in India. On practical issues, it will provide immense help in strengthening educational institutions run by the community and also help secure community property that is spread across the state,” Jonathan Solomon, chairman of the Indian Jewish Federation said.
In 1948, at the time of founding of the State of Israel, India had a Jewish population of approximately 30,000 according to Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs. The number has been dwindling with families migrating.
“We have been living peacefully in India and are happy to finally get recognized as a minority,” said Nissim, a senior manager at the Jewish Community Center.