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New civil rights group formed in Gujarat to raise minorities' "long-pending" issues, seeks minority govt depart

A minority ghetto in Ahmedabad
By Our Representative
In a new effort to lobby for minority rights, a new advocacy group has been formed in Gujarat, Minority Coordination Committee (MCC), on the occasion of the United Nations Minority Rights Day, which fell on December 18. One of its main aims is to provide a united platform for raising long-pending issues with the state government.
To begin by sending one lakh postcards to Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani by March 23, 2017 with a list of demands, the MCC, which proposes to work as a non-political pressure group, would represent before district collectors with a list of demands of minorities, following which it proposes to hold a rally in Ahmedabad to highlight the demands.
A statement issued by MCC following a meeting in Ahmedabad announced the decision to appoint four coordinators for Gujarat – Usmanghani Serashia for the Saurashtra-Kutch region; Mohammad Siddiq Seikh for South Gujarat; Mir Khan for North Gujarat; and Mujahid Nafees for Central Gujarat.
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Persons belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities was promulgated on December 18, 1992, with the declared aim of strengthening the cause of the minorities. Since then, International Minority Rights Day is observed to create awareness on rights of minorities.
Listing a list of demands, Serashia, also MCC spokesperson, said, these would include formation of a minority welfare department with the state government; having separate budget provision for minorities; setting up government higher secondary schools in minority areas; formation of minority commission in the state; recognizing madrasas as equivalent to Gujarat school boards; and announcing a separate welfare package for the minorities.
Addressing its first meeting, Nafees regretted, in Gujarat 75 per cent of the children enroll themselves in primary schools, but percentage of children enrolled in the secondary schools drastically goes down to 45 per cent. “By matriculation, just about 25 per cent of minority children remain in schools”, he added.
Calling it a “very serious matter” requiring urgent government and societal attention, Nafees said, another major issue which nags minorities is “massive displacement” of nearly two lakh families as a result of frequent riots in Gujarat, on one hand, and industrial activities along the sea coast, on the other.
“These families have come and settled down in the state’s urban areas, are living mostly in the slum areas which lack basic social and physical infrastructure”, he said, adding, “Most of these are Muslim minorities.”
Quoting the Sachar committee report, which came up with a comprehensive report on the state of minorities in India, Nafees further said, poverty among minorities is 800 per cent higher than the dominant caste Hindus and 50 per cent higher than other backward castes.
Suggesting how minorities have to depend mainly on unorganized sector in the urban areas, Nafees said, only 12 per cent of them are employed in the organized, especially manufacturing, sector, as against the national average of 21 per cent.
“While 54 per cent of the minorities work as self-employed in Gujarat as against the national average of 57 per cent, 27 per cent of them are employed in the unorganized sector in Gujarat, as against the national average of 17 per cent”, he said, indicating how a higher percentage of Muslims work as wage workers.
Despite this, he bemoaned, there is no separate minority welfare department in the Gujarat government, whose aim should be to implement the Prime Minister’s 15-point programme meant for ameliorating the plight of the minorities in education, economy and society.

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