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Muslims to have equal share in development: PM
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December 27, 2006 15:15 IST
Last Updated: December 27, 2006 15:40 IST

Concurring with the Sachar Committee Report that Muslims have not got an equal share of the fruits of development, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images] on Wednesday said his government will work towards ending such inequalities, besides taking steps for the social, educational and economic empowerment of Dalits.

Addressing the Dalit and Minorities International Conference in New Delhi, Dr Singh pointed out that some minorities such as Jains and Sikhs had fared relatively well from the process of social and economic development.

"However, other minorities, especially the Muslim community in certain parts of our country, have not had an equal share of the fruits of development." This, he said, had most recently been established by the data provided in the report of the Committee on the Social, Economic and Educational Status of the Muslim Community of India.

"It is incumbent upon any democratically elected government to redress such imbalances and eradicate such inequalities. Our government is indeed committed to doing so," he told the conference organised by Lok Janshakti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan, and attended by others such as former Prime Ministers V P Singh and I K Gujral.

Seeking to make a distinction between the problems faced by dalits in India and those faced by minorities in all societies, Dr Singh said the Dalits faced a unique discrimination with Apartheid being the only parallel to untouchability.

"Even after 60 years of Constitutional and legal protection and support, there is social discrimination against Dalits in many parts of the country," he said, and added, "Our government will take all necessary steps to help in the social, educational and economic empowerment of Dalits. This is our solemn commitment."

Referring to the relation between growth and poverty, Dr Singh said even as absolute poverty might be reduced by growth, inequalities could be sharpened that could be politically and socially destabilising. "Hence, we have to take steps that reduce social and economic inequalities, without hurting the process of growth and without reducing the incentives for individual enterprise and creativity," he said.

He, however, added that the administrative measures to develop the capabilities of these groups were not enough for ending social discrimination and disparities. "We need a change in mindsets. This requires a wider, broad-based social, political and cultural movement against all forms of discrimination and injustice. The battle for social eqality has to be waged and won in our minds," he said.

Pointing out that a minority in one place could be a majority in another, he called for establishing certain universal principles to deal with the specific problems of minorities. Invoking the memory of the great Dalit leader, Dr Singh said, "The life of Babasaheb Ambedkar gives us hope. It gives every Dalit hope, it gives every Indian hope. It should give every modern democratic society hope."

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