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Published in the 16-29 Feb 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Congress party’s promises to the minorities in the 1999 manifesto

The Congress will vigorously pursue the seven-point Intensified Programme for the Protection and Promotion of the Minorities announced on Martyrs’ Day 1999 by the Congress President, Smt. Sonia Gandhi, to ensure the reinvigoration of Indiraji’s historic 15-point programme and the monitoring mechanism devised by Shri Rajiv Gandhi. Measures will be taken to increase the representation of minorities in all public, police and para-military services both in the central and in state governments. The Congress commits itself to constitute a Commission to examine, consistent with the relevant provision of the Constitution relating to the minorities, the question of the backwardness of the minorities. It will implement the recommendations of this Commission in the context of the various relevant provisions of the Constitution, in particular Articles 15 (4) and 16(4). 

The Constitution will be amended to establish a Commission for Minority Educational Institutions and to provide direct affiliation for minority professional institutions to central universities. New middle-level technical institutes in clusters where, for example, weavers and artisans are concentrated will be started. The National Minorities Development Corporation and the State Minorities Development Corporations will be made direct-lending institutions.

The corpus of the Maulana Azad Education Foundation will be immediately doubled to spread education and literacy among the minorities. The spread of modern and technical education among the minorities, especially amongst women, is the most important step that any government can take to integrate the minorities into the national mainstream. A Central Madarsa Education Board will be established to promote modern and scientific eduction, along with the traditional curriculum in all madarsas. 

Consistent with Article 347 of the Constitution, the Congress will examine demands to declare Urdu as an official language in states where a substantial proportion of the population speaks that language. The Maulana Azad National Urdu University in Hyderabad will be given all support to emerge as a centre of excellence. Special social security and insurance schemes for weavers, handloom workers, fishermen, toddy tappers, leather workers and plantation labour will be introduced. The Protection of Places of Worship Act of 1991 will be strictly enforced. Substantial legislation will be introduced for the effective implementation of the rights conferred on minorities under Articles 29 and 30 of the Constitution. 

All pending litigation involving wakf boards and properties will be resolved on a time-bound basis. The practice of superseding elected wakf boards and keeping them under indefinite suspension will be actively discouraged. The Wakf Act, 1995 will be reviewed for its effective implementation and where necessary, will be amended to protect Wakf properties. The Congress will not initiate and support amendments in the personal laws of the minorities. Special courts will be established to expeditiously try cases arising out of communal disturbances.

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