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The Centre on Wednesday said there was no proposal before it to provide reservation on the basis of religion.
"The central government has not taken any decision on the reservation on religious basis," Human Resources Minister Arjun Singh [Images] told reporters when asked to comment on Home Minister Shivraj Patil's observation that the government favours reservation for minorities in educational institutions.
Singh, who chaired a meeting of the National Monitoring Committee for Minority Education to review the progress of minorities' education, also announced a committee headed by Minister of State for HRD M A A Fatmi to go into the progress in the field of education on the basis of Sachar Committee recommendations.
Addressing a conference of the state minorities' commission, Patil said reservation has been provided for Scheduled Castes and Schedules Tribes in educational institutions and government jobs and now there is a demand from minorities also.
"The government is looking into these aspects without coming to the final conclusion," he added.
Observing that he was not aware of in what context Patil had made the remarks, Singh said there was no decision taken by the central government to provide reservation on the basis of religion.
Asked whether the government would provide reservation to minorities in educational institutions, he said they would be considered under the OBC quota but for "minorities alone, there is no proposal".
To a question whether the Centre would consider defining the minorities in view of growing demands, Singh said that the definition was always thought of at the national perspective.
While the information provided by the state governments was also given lot of weightage, the Centre only takes a decision on who is a minority and who is not, he said declining to go into the details.
Though the Centre was not getting enough support from Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, ruled by BJP, on the issue of minority education, Singh said the Centre would have to continue with its work in this front.
"Nothing prevents us from carrying out the programmes related to minorities as per the Sachar Committee recommendations," he said.
Rejecting suggestion that he was championing the cause of minority education with a "political motive", he said as per the Constitution, minorities should get their share and he would continue to do what he was doing.
Noting the Fatmi committee has been asked to give its report within two months, he said the meeting deliberated in-depth on the dropout rates among minorities and modernisation of Madarsas.
While there was noticeable decline in the number of dropouts this year, Singh said there was some kind of unanimity" on the setting up a Madarsa Board.
Government also informed the NMCME that 18 per cent of funds under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan have been targeted to districts with substantial Muslim population in 2007/08.
A new centrally sponsored scheme is proposed for assistance to polytechnics to ensure that each Muslim minority concentration district has a polytechnic for which nonrecurring expenditure is proposed to be made available, the meeting was told.
Out of 4,707 degree level technical institutions, 377 are minority institutions, of which 51 were sanctioned by the All India Council for Technical Education in 2007/08.
Speaking on the occasion, Zafar Ali Naqvi, Chairman of Standing Committee of NMCME said the mechanism that has developed in the last three years has aroused aspirations of the minorities for getting better opportunities to receive education.
Noting that the Standing Committee had visited various states, he said a significant thing noticed was that most of the sections of Muslim minority, especially educationally backward classes have started responding to the idea of reform in Madarsa education.
The general complaint was that the grants flowing in from the Centre, even in cases of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan were not fairly allocated as far as the minority institutions were concerned, Naqvi said.
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