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PM's remarks taken out of context: Montek
December 11, 2006 15:55 IST
Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia on Monday put up a stout defence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's remarks on more equitable distibution of benefits for the Muslim community, saying it was 'unfortunate' that his suggestion was not being viewed in the proper context.
Dr Ahluwalia said there was no attempt to communalise or draw political mileage from the development process, but added that economy cannot be insulated from politics.
"We are not running a university here," Dr Ahluwalia told a press conference, adding that any economic statement without taking into account the political background made little sense in a democracy.
The press conference was convened to give an appraisal of the National Development Council meeting held on Saturday for approval of the Eleventh Five-Year Plan document.
Dr Singh's remark at the NDC meeting in this regard stirred the hornet's nest with loud protests from the Bharatiya Janata Party, as well as some chief ministers.
Both Houses of Parliament could not transact any business on Monday, as the BJP stalled the proceedings demanding an appolgy from the prime minister for his remarks.
Dr Ahluwalia read the relevant portions of the prime minister's inaugural address in this regard.
It said - 'We have to devise innovative plans to ensure that minorities, particularly the Muslim minority, are empowered to share equitably in the fruits of development. These must have the first claim on resources'.
The deputy chief of the Plan Panel said Dr Singh's remarks have to be viewed in the context of the Sachar Committee's findings which have brought out how minorities, especially Muslims, have lost out in the development process.
Dr Ahluwalia said the prime minister's intention was to emphasise the need to bring all excluded groups into the fold of development. This, he said, included not just Muslims but also Scheduled Castes and Tribes and other backward castes and classes, whose condition left much to be desired.
Asked whether the Opposition's annoyance was misplaced and whether he would offer any advice to them, Dr Ahluwalia said political parties should understand the spirit in which the statement was made, but the Planning Commission was not in the business of giving advice on such matters to Parliament.
"The problem of minorities cannot be pushed under the carpet," he remarked.
"An economic agenda which is not part of political agenda is not worth discussing," Ahluwalia said.
He said the Planning Commission was yet to work out the strategy for minorities, but prime minister's 15-point programme for welfare of minorities could be a starting point.
"Although one of the chief ministers at the NDC meeting suggested a sub-plan for minorities in the plan document, we still have to take a final decision," he said.
When asked while approach paper referred only to the poor muslims, why Dr Singh included the entire community, Planning Commission Member Syeda Hameed said his remarks came in the wake of findings of Sachar Committee and the 11th plan approach paper was prepared before that.
The approach paper emphasises the need 'to promote education among all other backward sections including minorities, particularly among poor Muslims, who have fallen far behind the national average in all aspects, particularly in the field of education'.
The fifth chapter of the approach paper says, "At a minimum, areas dominated by backward communities like poor Muslims will require special focus in the SSA and schemes for creating infrastructural facilities will have to be properly implemented in these areas."
With PTI inputs