The UPA government has given the nod to accord national minority status under the National Commission of Minorities Act to the Jain community. The Cabinet decision came on Monday, a day after Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi took up the matter with the prime minister.
“This has been a long standing demand of the community. Under Article (30) once designated as a religious or linguistic minority it can run its own educational institutions. We will soon issue a notification,” Minister for Minority Affairs K Rehman Khan told The Indian Express.
The recognition as a minority community would give Jains a share in central funds for minority welfare programmes and scholarships.
Sources said the matter was under consideration and the cabinet note had been moved before the Congress vice-president intervened following a meeting with Jain community leaders.
Sikhs, Muslims, Christians, Parsis and Buddhists are religious minorities recognised by the Centre. The Jain community numbering about 50 lakh has minority status in 11 states but is not covered by the National Commission of Minorities Act. Though the move will earn the embattled UPA brownie points — the Jain community felicitated minorities minister K Rehman Khan soon after the cabinet decision — other minority communities especially Muslims are apprehensive of their share in welfare schemes. The Jain community is perceived as an affluent community wielding influence.
Muslim leaders have been demanding adequate exclusion based on economic status to ensure the community gets its deserved share in welfare schemes even as the minority umbrella gets wider.
The ministry view is that enough economic safeguards are in place for scholarships and other welfare schemes to go to only those who require them. Founder of Jain organisation Ahimsa Vishwa Bharti Acharya Lokesh Muni said Jains, despite constituting not even one per cent of the population, have made important contribution to social and national development. “After this decision, they will be able to contribute even more to welfare activities in education, medicine, livelihood etc,” he added.