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Published in the 1-15 Jan 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Lok Sabha passes Bill on minority education

By Andalib Akhter

New Delhi: After prolonged and heated debate, the Lok Sabha, the lower house of the parliament finally passed the Bill for the establishment of ‘National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions’. Opposing the bill the main opposition party the BJP walked out during the voting. Interestingly the other allies of BJP such as JDU and Telgu Desam supported the bill and remained in House during the passage of the bill. 

The salient features of the bill are:- it enables the creation of a National Commission for Minority Educational Institution; ii) it grants the right of minority educational institution to seek recognition as an affiliated college to a Scheduled University, notwithstanding anything contained in any other law for the time being in force; iii) it allows for a forum of dispute resolution in the form of a Statutory Commission regarding matters of affiliation between a minority educational institution and a Scheduled University and its decision shall be final and binding on the parties; iv) the Commission shall have the power of a civil court while trying a suit for the purpose of discharging its functions under it, which would provide for the decisions of the Commission the legal sanction necessary for such purpose; and v) it empowers Central Government to amend the Schedule to add in, or omit from any University.

Talking to this correspondent the Human Resources Development Minister Arjun Singh said that the Bill would provide direct affiliation for minority professional institution to Central universities.

This long standing demand of the minority communities was also highlighted in a series of meetings held by the HRD ministry with the educationists, eminent citizens, community leaders associated with minority education. Among the various issues raised by the representatives of the minorities communities was the difficulties faced by them in establishing and running their own educational institutions. Despite the constitutional guarantees accorded to them in this regard, the major problem was the issue of securing affiliation to a university of their choice. The territorial jurisdiction of the state universities and the concentration of minority population in some specific areas invariably meant that the institutions could not avail the opportunity of affiliation with the universities of their choice.

"In view of the commitment of the government in the Common Minimum Programme, the issue of setting up of a National Commission was a matter of utmost urgency" says Arjun Singh. 

During the debate on the bill, Asaduddinn Owaisi of Ithihadul Muslemin said that this was the first serious attempt made in the last fifteen years for the implementation of fundamental rights provided in article 30. Samik Lahiri of the CPM asked the government to ensure that there was no backdoor commercialization in minority institutions. Dr. Shfiqur Rahman Barq of SP said that the bill would certainly bring relief to the Muslims. "Our children should get the opportunity to receive primary as well as higher education" he says.

Mr. Iqbal Ahmad Sardagi of Congress said that this historic bill has been passed to give protection to minorities’ educational rights. Madhusodan Mistry of Congress said that the bill presents a mechanism which should always be available for the state particularly the minorities. "This mechanism will open the gate for the affiliation of minority educational institutions", he said.

Opposing the bill the BJP MP Yogi Aditya Nath said that the bill was against the tenet of a secular fabric given in the constitution. Another MP of the BJP Bachi Singh Rawat, who initiated the debate, said that the bill would not give immediate benefit to a particular community. Meanwhile the Bill is likely to be debated in the Rajya Sabha in the budget session and after getting passed from the upper house the bill will be made into an Act. 

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