Sabarimala shrine to produce 14 mn cans of prasad

October 28, 2014 by admin  
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Sabarimala templeSabarimala, October 22, 2014: The Sabarimala shrine, whose new pilgrimage season starts Nov 17, will produce a record 14 million cans of ‘prasad’.

Situated on the Western Ghats at an altitude of 914 metres above sea level, the Sabarimala temple in Pathanamthitta district lies around 100 km from here. It is accessible only on foot from Pamba.

Even though the temple is now open on the first few days every month of the Malayalam calendar, the peak pilgrimage season begins on the first day of the Malayalam month in November. This year, this falls Nov 17.

Temple executive officer V.S. Jayakumar said the production of prasadam, called aravana, will commence Oct 27.

“This season we expect to produce a record 14 million (250 ml) cans of aravana. When the temple opens for this festival season, we will have with us close to three million cans of aravana ready,” Jayakumar told IANS.

The main ingredients of the aravana are rice, ghee, jaggery and spices.

Pilgrims can book the prasad in advance online or at all branches of Dhanalaksmi Bank or through coupons from temples run by the Travancore Devaswom Board.

“This is to avoid the rush once they come to Sabarimala, where they can collect their prasadam,” Jayakumar said.

He said the production of appam, (another prasadam) will begin only Nov 12 because it has a shelf life of just two weeks.

“This time we plan to make a record 7.5 million appams. We will have two kits. One will include two packets of appam and one can of aravana besides a packet each of sandalwood paste and vibhuthi for Rs.160. For Rs.270 one gets an additional can of aravana and two additional packets of appam,” added Jayakumar.

- ians

Bishop of Pune: The Asia Bibi death sentence is an affront to the dignity of us all

October 28, 2014 by admin  
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Asia BibiMumbai, October 17, 2014: I was greatly shocked and deeply saddened when the judges decided to uphold the capital punishment to ..hapless Christian woman, Asia Bibi. In my view it is against all norms of both humans and international laws , dignity and all laws.

Anycase everybody should be able to follow his/her religion there should be religious freedom and this in my view is a  grave violation of the freedom to practice one’s own religion but one may not be able to see the connection. I totally condemn this sentence because in my view it is against all human dignity against all laws not only international laws but all laws , human rights. It is a violation of human rights.

It is my deep conviction that these laws are hopelessly against the human spirit and it is betrays a medieval and obsolete  mindset it is an abuse of power and authority to award such sentences and any case such laws are always open to misinterpretation and abuse on various grounds.

Pakistan being a Muslim  majority nation, where Christians and those of other religions are a tiny miniscule minorities, t is all the more incumbent on them to be vary of  such accusations of blasphemy. The  Pakistan government there should be very careful in applying such laws and the International community should hold the  government of Pakistan  accountable. The Pakistan government cannot disown responsibility of this death sentence  and should overturn immediately the death sentence of innocent Christian woman Asia Bibi

I would expect international authorities and bodies to make the Pakistan government withdraw this punishment as well as these draconian Blasphemy laws, which  betrays a mindset that are against present day affirmation of human rights.

Providentially the universal church will observe mission Sunday on 19th which is intended to promote Jesus and his values . Jesus mission was to impart to fullness of life in all liberties to all humanity,  therefore such an sentence  of capital punishment , on the dubious  grounds of the application of blasphemy law is contrary to the vision and mission of Jesus Christ.

- asianews

Dialogue will light up our lives

October 28, 2014 by admin  
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Muslim Christian dialogueReligion is for spiritual guidance and growth of people. It is a significant resource for promoting peace, harmony, liberty and Justice. We must use religions to esteem and enrich our composite culture and plurality of faith traditions, which is our asset. Our response must be based on reverence, respect, tolerance and compassion.

Every person is an image of God (Genesis 1:27). Hence, a person is sacred, unique, and irreplaceable. This confers on every person an irreducible dignity and honour which must be respected and protected by all people and institutions. The basic tenets of all religious traditions orchestrate into a symphony of harmony. God, Iswar, Allah are the articulations in name and form of the experience of the Ultimate Divine Mystery which transcends all names and forms. One’s authentic religious world vision, the worth of prayer and spirituality lead one to respect religions as ennobling culture which enables people to believe in the goodness of humanity as preached by the founders of religious traditions.

A person’s spiritual quotient leads him/her to the recognition of Islam and Christianity as faiths beyond fanaticism. Christianity and Islam share a historical connection. Both are Semitic religions, having a common origin in the Middle East. They are prophetic in character emphasizing on a vital connection between faith and ethics: that the authenticity of one’s faith is to be seen in good deeds. Both are also known as Abrahamic religions. Muslims commonly refer to Christians as ‘People of the Book’, people who follow the same general teachings in relation to the worship of One God (Tawhid) as this was acknowledged in the eleventh century by Pope Gregory VII.

It is appropriate here to remind ourselves of the declaration of the Second Vatican Council on Christian-Muslim faith affinity:  “The Church has also high regard for the Muslims. They worship God, who is one…merciful and almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth…They strive to submit themselves without reserve to the hidden decrees of God, just as Abraham submitted himself to God’s plan, to whose faith Muslims eagerly link their own. Although not acknowledging him as God, they worship Jesus as a prophet, his virgin Mother they also honour… Further, they await the Day of Judgment and the reward of God following the resurrection of the dead. For this reason they highly esteem an upright life and worship God, especially by way of prayer, alms-deeds and fasting.” The Council further exhorts Christians and Muslims to work together for promoting world peace, liberty, social justice and moral values (Nostra Aetate, 3)

We know that religion and society constantly influence each other. Hence, an assessment of the Muslim and Christian faith-commonality shall help these two faith communities to work with world community to purge the human race of a sin which the seventeenth century French philosopher Blaise Pascal states as inherent in human nature: “Man never does evil more joyfully and wholeheartedly than in the name of religion.”

We need to promote interfaith dialogues at both the individual and institutional levels. As Dr. Hans Kung formulated, “There will be no peace among the nations without peace among the religions. There will be no peace among the religions without dialogue among the religions.”

In pursuit of implanting the importance of values and dialogue in students, St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata has introduced a two credit Foundation Course on “Religious Studies and Social Harmony” from 2014-15 academic session. This course proposes to promote national integration and cause appreciation for all religious traditions and values. A student, as he or she leaves the portals of St. Xavier’s College, must carry within  greater knowledge and appreciation of multi-religious realities of India.

- j. felix raj

Christians attacked in Chhattisgarh

October 28, 2014 by admin  
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ChhattisgarhNew Delhi, October 27, 2014: Twelve Christian villagers were injured in central India’s Chhattisgarh state after they were attacked by Hindu fundamentalists, according to a Christian activist.

The villagers were part of a group of 40 Christians who had gathered on Saturday for what was supposed to be a mediation meeting to resolve tensions with members of the local Hindu community in the state’s Bastar district. District officials and local police had called on members from both communities to reconcile their differences after months of discord between the two sides.

However, Christian villagers arrived to find nobody there from the district administration or their counterparts in the Hindu community, according to Arun Pannalal, president of the Chhattisgarh Christian Forum. Instead, he said, 50 Hindu fundamentalists armed with swords, sticks and axes showed up on a truck and started attacking the Christians, who they accused of engaging in forced conversions.

“The attack happened without any provocation,” Pannalal said. “Christians had gathered for the meeting, which never happened and instead they were attacked.”

However, district officials insist the attack was not part of any ongoing religious tensions, but a personal dispute.

“This incident is not related to any kind of religious thing happening in the village,” Ankit Anand, district collector of Bastar district, told ucanews.com. “It was due to some personal issues between the two groups. The concerned authorities have spoken with both groups and now there is no reason for the tension to escalate in the area.”

Anand said local police have filed cases against 15 people in connection with the attack.

Pannalal said four Hindu fundamentalists were arrested Sunday and Monday, though ucanews.com was unable to confirm this with police.

Pannalal, however, believes the attack was clearly part of escalating religious tensions between the two communities. In June, 50 villages in the district passed resolutions outlawing non-Hindu religious ceremonies. Pannalal is petitioning the state’s high court to overturn the ban.

- ucanews

Govt opposes SC status to Dalit Christians & Muslims

October 28, 2014 by admin  
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dalit christiansNew Delhi, October 17, 2014: Times of India on 10th October 2014 reported that the Government is opposed to Dalit status for converts.

It reported union social justice minister Taawar Chand Gehlot’s statement about SC status to Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims, which reveals that the Government is not inclusive in its development policy.

The demand for the inclusion of the Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims has been going on for the past 64 years because of the Constitution (Scheduled Caste Order) 1950 paragraph 3 which reads as “no person who professes a religion different from the Hindu religion shall be deemed to be a member of a Scheduled Caste”. Later it was amended to include Sikhs and Buddhists in 1956 and 1990 respectively.

A public interest litigation case was filed in the Supreme Court of India in 2004 (Civil Writ Petition No.180/2004) challenging the validity of this order.

Denying SC status to Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims is Unconstitutional:

Denying SC status to Christians and Muslims of Scheduled Caste Origin is unconstitutional because it is against the Secular nature of the country ( Preamble of the Constitution) against Article 14 which says “The State shall not deny any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India prohibition of discrimination of religion, race, caste sex, or place of birth”, and against article 15 which says “The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds of only religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth or any of them”.

Dalit status to converts will not eat into SC quota

SC list is the rightful place for the Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims. The percentage of Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims is very meagre compared to the vast majority of the Hindu Dalits. Most of the reserved seats of the SCs are not filled and there are many backlogs every year. Crores of money from the Special Component plan is unspent every year.

Every year some backward castes are added to the SC list and this argument does not arise there.

More over when the Sikh Dalits and Buddhist Dalits were included in the SC list there was question of earing the quota or sharing the cake of the Dalit Hindus.

Dalit converts availing facilities extended to (backward) Christians and Muslims and if they get SC status, they will be not be eligible for dual benefits:

Once the Christians and Muslims of Scheduled caste origin are included in the SC list they will be automatically removed from the BC list. Thus there is no question of enjoying dual benefit by these groups.

Christianity and Islam do not accept caste system and therefore do not approve untouchability. But in reality the caste system in the larger society is reflection in these religious communities also:

The caste system in India has religious origin and sanction in the Hindu religion. But unfortunately it has become part and parcel of the Indian society where majority are Hindus. Though Christianity and Islam does not approve the caste system and untouchability it is being practiced by its members since they are the part of the larger society. Besides that the Christians and Muslims of SC origin live in a larger society where the caste system is prevalent and who are treated as untouchables by the caste Hindus.

Sikhism and Buddhism do not approve caste system but Dalits belonging to these religions are extended SC status.

Many state Governments and many commissions appointed by the Union of India have supported SC status to Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims:

The state Governments of Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have recommended to the Union to extend SC status to the Christians of Scheduled Caste Origin.

The National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities (NCRLM) Report, the ‘Dalits in the Muslim and Christian Communities- A Status Report on Current Social Scientific Knowledge’ prepared for the National commission for Minorities Government of India by Satish Deshpande and many other reports formed by the Government clearly say that the socio, economic, educational condition of the Dalits has not changed much even after their conversion to other religions.

Unnecessary fear that it will lead to conversion:

The Constitution of India guarantees the freedom of religion to every citizen of India.

‘Subject to public order, morality and health and to the other provisions of this Part, all person are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practice and propagate religion’.( Article 25).

The Constitution Scheduled Caste Order 1950 rather takes away this basic right to practice a religion of one’s own conscience. Rather by denying the SC status to Christians and Muslims of Scheduled Caste Origin the order proselytises the Hindu Dalits and prevents them from converting themselves to the other religions.

It is minimising the value and credibility of Hindu religion and the Hindu Dalits, if somebody says that people would move away from Hindu religion if SC status to extended to all.

It should be also noted that the Dalit Hindus did not convert to Sikhism and Buddhism when the SC status was extended to the followers of these religions.

Denying SC status to Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims is recommended by UN:

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination 17th session (19th Feb-9th March 2007) states “The Committee notes with concern that Dalits who convert to Islam or to Christianity to escape caste discrimination reportedly list their entitlement under affirmative action programmes, unlike converts who become Buddhists or Sikhs. The committee recommends that the State party restore the eligibility for affirmative action benefits of all members of scheduled Castes and scheduled tribes having converted to another religion”.

Denying SC status to Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims is against Human Rights of these groups:

Denying Scheduled Caste status to Christians and Muslims of Scheduled Caste Origin is denying their basic Human Rights to practice any religion of their conscience.

BJP’s  National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution:

National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution (NCRWC) in 2002 formed by  NDA, Bharatiya Janata Party observed  the fact that in some parts of the country particularly in the south converts to Christianity  from specific SCs are  subjected to crimes and atrocities as their exact Hindu counterparts are (difference of religion making no difference in this regard) and the fact that trials in such cases get bogged down on the issue whether this is an atrocity since they are not SC on account of conversion.  They recommended that Clause (c) of section 2 of the Act should be amended by adding the following words at the end of it “and converts to Christianity from Scheduled Castes”.

The National Executive of the Minority Morcha of BJP:

The National Executive of the Minority Morcha of BJP in Bangalore in 2011 passed a resolution “ The benefits of reservation granted to any caste, or race or tribe could not be denied to them on the basis of their religious faith or they belonged to a particular religion”.

Conclusion: The Government should give reply to the Supreme Court

Based on the report of National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities (NCRLM) we request the Government to give a reply to the Supreme Court of India so that the long pending issue may be resolved in the Supreme Court of India soon.

Fr. Devasagayaraj, Secretary, CBCI Office for SC/BC;
Mr. Samuel Jeyakumar, Secretary, NCCI National Commission on Policy Governance Witness;
Mr. Franklin Caesar, National Coordinator, National Council for Dalit Christians (NCDC);
Dr. Syed Zafar Mahmood, President, Zakat Foundation of India.

‘The Christian minority in India is under serious threat’

October 28, 2014 by admin  
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Christian PersecutionBhubaneswar, October 15, 2014: With the election of Narendra Modi of the Hindu “Bharatiya Janata Party” (BJP) as prime minister of India the country’s secular constitution has come under threat, a Catholic priest in India has charged.

Father Ajay Kumar Singh, a human rights activist in Kandhamal District in the East Indian state of Odisha (formerly Orissa), warned of the growing influence of radical Hindu forces on the Indian subcontinent.

“Especially under threat is the Christian minority because it is rejected by extremists as alien and because the Christian message is threat to the caste system,” the priest said in an interview with international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.

According to Father Kumar Singh – who is associated with the “Odisha Forum for Social Action” – the BJP aims to establish a state religion which excludes the lower castes and all minorities.

“They even want to impose only one language, Sanskrit, even though hundreds of languages are spoken in India,” he continued, adding that the strength of party and the movement it represents has become the strongest political force in India, taking many observers, including Church leaders and their flock, by surprise.

“It is important for us to understand what is happening. As a Church we must think way beyond the bounds of the individual dioceses; we must act regionally and nationally in order to find responses to this challenge,” the priest said.

“Otherwise Orissa 2008 will be repeated, even worse than then because we learned no lessons from it,” the priest said, referring to August 2008, when Hindu nationalists attacked villages of Christian dalits or “untouchables,” belonging to the lowest caste in the Hindu social hierarchy.

The violence left more than 100 dead, according to the “National People’s Tribunal” (NPT), an association of human rights activists in Odisha.

According to the NPT, the attacks had been prepared well in advance: more than 600 villages were looted, with 5,600 houses, 295 churches and 13 schools destroyed. More than 54,000 people were made homeless, and of this number 30,000 have not been able to return to their villages.

Around 10,000 children were robbed of the possibility to attend school because they were forced to flee and were displaced.  Some 2,000 Christians were compelled to deny their faith. Numerous women were raped. Many of the perpetrators of the violence—though they are known to authorities—have never been charged.

Father Kumar Singh is afraid history might repeat itself.

- aid to the church in need

Karnataka rejects report on Mangalore church attacks

October 22, 2014 by admin  
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Mangalore PersecutionMangalore, October 17, 2014: The Karnataka State Cabinet on Thursday decided to reject the B K Somashekar Judicial Inquiry Commission report into the infamous series of church attacks in Mangalore.

Christian groups and leaders have been demanding rejection of this report with demonstrations and memoranda ever since it was submitted to the former BJP government. The groups demanding the rejection included Karnataka United Christians Forum for Human Rights, led by Archbishop Bernard Moras of Bangalore.

A series of anti-Christian attacks happened in Mangalore and other parts of coastal Dakshina Kannada, Udupi, Chikmaglur in 2008, within months after state’s first BJP government led by the B S Yeddyurappa came to power.

The present state cabinet, which met under the chairmanship of Congress chief minister Siddaramaiah, took note of the contradictory findings in panel report submitted to the government.

It also directed the State Home Department to take action against the perpetrators of the attacks based on the nine-point recommendations of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).

Karnataka’s Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister T B Jayachandra, who briefed the reporters after the State Cabinet meeting, said when the report was submitted to the BJP government, he and other Congress leaders then in opposition, had termed the report as “politically motivated” attempt “to exonerate the Sangh Parivar outfits” like Bajrang Dal, Sri Ram Sene and even Vishwa Hindu Parishad.

The NHRC had recommended compensation to the victims and also the churches and other places of worship belonging to the Christian minority community and taking steps to prevent recurrence of such violence.

The Hindu group attacked Christians accusing pastors of engaging in “forcible conversion” with support of the police and tacit approval of the adminstration.

NHRC wanted stringent action against the police officers who supported the attackers and even beaten up the arrested Christians in police custody.

To a specific question on the NHRC recommendations appeared to be “totally one-sided,” Jayachandra said: “NHRC is a statutory body. We have merely asked the Home Department to look into them and take appropriate action.”

- daijiworld

Hindu hardliners influencing officials’ treatment of Christians

October 22, 2014 by admin  
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Madhya Pradesh ChristiansNew Delhi, October 15, 2014: Police and local officials in central Madhya Pradesh state have been harassing Christians at the behest of hardline Hindu groups, according to Christian leaders.

In one case, a Christian group was denied permission by the local administration in Alirajpur district to host an annual gathering October 6-9. As justification, the authorities said the event would have created social tensions in the area.

Kapil Sharma, president of the Moksha Foundation and an organizer of the event, told ucanews.com that the local administration is “playing at the hands of right-wing Hindu groups to target minority Christians”.

Sharma said he also was asked to provide details about the event’s funding sources and questioned about whether he was involved in any criminal or illegal activities.

The administration wants to “terrorize Christians,” said Sharma, who converted to Christianity from the Hindu religion in 2006.

He said the recent series of incidents represented a basic denial of Christians’ constitutional right to freedom of religion.

It was also in Alirajpur district that police declared invalid the marriage of 22-year old Christian Joseph Pawar and his 19-year old Hindu wife Ayushi Wani after the couple eloped.

Wani’s family and radical Hindu groups objected to the marriage, alleging it was a ploy to convert a Hindu woman to Christianity. Police invalidated the marriage on October 3, claiming it violated Madhya Pradesh’s anti-conversion laws.

Nirmal Singh, Pawar’s relative, told ucanews.com that the couple had sent a digital copy of their marriage registration certificate to the Alirajpur district superintendent of police.

“But the officer seemed to have deleted the copy, joined [in support of] the Hindu group and declared their marriage void in violation of the law,” Singh said.

Pawar and his mother have gone into hiding at an undisclosed location for reasons of safety, while the bride was sent to a “rehabilitation” facility, according to Singh. Such facilities are often used to hold women who have been caught engaging in prostitution, drug use or other such socially stigmatized activities.

Deepak Vijayvargiya, state spokesman for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), said the annulment was a legal issue and that the ceremony did not follow the state’s anti-conversion laws.

“It is a pure legal issue between the families of the boy and the girl and the administration,” he told ucanews.com.

Richard James, Bhopal district president of the National Christian Forum, told ucanews.com that Hindu groups have been “more active and targeting minorities” since the BJP won recent national elections.

Christian leader and rights activist AC Michael of New Delhi said events in Madhya Pradesh reflect what is happening throughout India since the party assumed power.

“BJP cadres and their allied groups seem to believe that the victory in the election is a mandate for them to act upon their ideology of making India a Hindu nation. But they are sadly mistaken,” Michael said.

Michael told ucanews.com that human rights groups have recorded more than 600 attacks on religious minorities in the country since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office.

“[Modi] has not said anything against the anti-Christian activities of these groups,” Michael said.

- ucanews

Evangelization through the media & its challenges today

October 22, 2014 by admin  
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Sister Joeyanna D’SouzaMumbai, October 11, 2014: As part of their centenary celebrations, the Daughters of Saint Paul hosted a symposium on the title theme on Saturday 11 October 2014 at their facility on Waterfield Road, Bandra West with cheerful and efficient Ladislaus D’Souza, Copy-editor of St Paul’s/Better Yourself Books as moderator.

The veteran and respected journalist, Ms Carol Andrade, currently Dean, Post Graduation Journalism, S.P.I.C.E., speaking on Women in the Media, said that it was unfortunate that women are blocked from attaining senior and powerful positions as journalists and editors who can make a difference in reporting social and economic issues. Women journalists have achieved prominence in fields that appeal to women such as beauty, clothing,  jewelry and décor. But in terms of prominence, the only woman in media that they have heard of is Barkha Dutt!

Carol felt that one of the factors blocking women’s progress is gender discrimination. Women who have made significant contribution despite the odds have faced snide remarks and disgruntled juniors, another being that many women have to give up working in order to raise a family.  It is never the man giving up his career but always the woman. When she tries to get back to journalism after a break, she has to start afresh, her experience discounted.

Regrettably, women are partly to blame for the fact that not sufficient importance is given to issues that concern their own gender, Carol pointed out, deploring the fact that social issues such as rape are reported in a sensational manner that have eyeballs rolling. And, why? Because people love yellow journalism even as the underlying reasons for these occurrences and how they can be addressed so as to make society change for the better are not dwelt upon.

Carol opined that when priests and nuns send their grievances to the Press, these are not published, and where they are, the write-up in question is shortened and relegated to an obscure column. She felt that the only way to surmount this problem was by pestering the publication concerned with phone calls and emails. She pointed out that perhaps, given the reluctance of the press to publish religious issues, articles on social issues could be sent.

Sister Joeyanna D’Souza, fsp, Manager IP Team, Daughters of Saint Paul, Bandra, speaking on Media and Religious Life, highlighted the importance of communication in order to spread the Word. The statistics she gave showed the volume of use the social media is put to in service of the Gospel and how much needs to be done on the part of the religious to maximize its use. Appropriately, she emphasized the need for imparting communication skills to religious.

Father Nigel Barrett, Director, Bombay Archdiocesan Catholic Communications Centre, speaking on the Media in relation to the Word and the World, touched on the excellence of Jesus as a communicator who could talk on the same wavelength with the educated and the uneducated alike! He said that as Christians we are called to be communicators as well, optimally using the media in order to spread the message of Jesus. Father Nigel’s PPT presentation demonstrated the use of modern methods of communication in being ‘e-messengers’ who use the electronic media in order to proclaim the good news through the written word and ‘e-curators’ who could copy-paste relevant articles and messages and send them on to others. For instance, we could circulate messages of Pope Francis via email or facebook and twitter accounts.

Point out the usefulness of e-media when communicating with our youth, he informed the gathering of the formation of a group of “What’s Ap” users whom he intimates as regards any important events taking place and who in turn send the message across to their respective circles.

Father Nigel also urged caution and discreetness as regards sending messages to the Press so as not to create issues for the Church. For instance, he says he is careful to toe the line in his official capacity but does feel free to express his personal views which may be different.

As a result of the general discussions and exchange of ideas that followed, a priest-participant suggested that we look at the possibility of conducting Catechism classes through Skype, suggesting that the matter to be studied could be emailed to the youth concerned. Father Nigel responded by saying that while the electronic media could be used to some extent, it cannot replace face-to-face communication in terms of catechesis.

The Symposium, which commenced with a dance essay of the Canticle in Praise of the Media by Sister Silvia, fsp, at 4.30 pm concluded at 6.30 pm with a tie-up of the main points of the deliberations by Mrs Virginia Saldanha, the Vote of Thanks by Sister Rosily, and refreshments.

- fwd: ladislaus d’souza

‘Much needed for minority development’: Post-Sachar Committee Report

October 18, 2014 by admin  
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Sachar CommitteeMumbai, October 13, 2014: Diversity Index, social audit, clear policy guidelines, better social and physical infrastructure in Muslim concentrated areas, monitoring and evaluation of programmes at regular intervals, similar policy provisions for the persons engaged in similar occupational activities across the religious groups, and fixed accountabilities on officers implementing the programmes are some of the major recommendations of the Post-Sachar Evaluation Committee (PSEC) or Kundu Committee.

This Committee, which was formed by the UPA Government and continued by the Modi government, to assess the implementation of Sachar Committee recommendations and Prime Minister’s 15 Point Programme, submitted its final report on 9th October.

Diversity Index and Reservation

Although Kundu Committee did not recommend politically controversial reservations, it proposed a Diversity Index (DI) based on caste, religion, gender. A person close to the committee working said, “Diversity Index is more than a reservation”. It can be applied not only to the Shrinking Public Sector but also to the private sector. Indirect government incentives like tax rebates and other encouragements must be provided to the companies ranking high on the DI.

The index can be applied to Educational Institutions, Hospitals and to all government department and schemes. The government incentives should be in proportion to the yearly Diversity Index scores that they achieve. Allocation of budget based on DI should be a new mantra of development for all sections of the society. “Unity in diversity is the strength of India and the socio-cultural diversity is the biggest asset of the nation.

The ‘homogeneity’ and ‘de-customised’ approach to development runs its own risk of leaving people out of ambit of developmental programmes and it should be avoided in a diverse society like India.

“Indian diversity and people are like sand in hand. In a tightened fist there is all possibility that many of them will spill out”, said Professor Abdul Shaban, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, who was also a member of the Kundu Committee.

The committee has recommended the SC status to Muslims who are practicing the same professions as of their Hindu counterparts. The committee believes that the Constitution has a scope for reservations for Muslims and all the socially and economically deprived communities. The Presidential Order of 1950 allowed SC status only to Hindus, but in 1956 lower castes among Sikhs and latter, in 1990, by VP Singh government, Neo-Buddhists were included in this SC list. Arguing in favour of his decision, VP Singh then had said that this change of religion, from Hinduism to Buddhism, had not altered their social, economic or educational conditions.

Social Audit of Welfare Schemes

Casual approach in framing policy and programme guidelines for development of minorities, inefficiency in administration, lack of convergence and coordination among different departments and ministries, and paucity of funds for the schemes are the major problems noted by the Kundu Committee.

Prof. Shaban said, “Ad hoc approach in framing the policies created confusions among the administrative staff that led to failure in effective implementation of Welfare Schemes. For example, PMs 15 points Programme states that ‘certain portion’ of budget under the scheme to be allocated for minorities and ‘preference’ would be given to minorities in the appointment of police and other services. However, neither does it specify the percentages, nor clarifies what is meant by the ‘priorities’ in the recruitment of minorities without any legal provisions for the same.”

Among others, the Kundu Committee has recommended proper financial provisions for hiring consulting agencies for need assessment and preparation of Detailed Project Reports for MsDP, careful selection of members of District and State Level Committees for effective and timely delivery of the programmes, sources said.

One of the major achievements in Post-Sachar years has been that minorities have emerged as developmental subjects of the state rather than just ‘ethnic and religious groups’. Institutional building for development of minorities has been major hallmark of this period through establishment of Ministry of Minority Affairs, Minorities Commissions, National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions Act, establishment of Wakf Development Corporation and launch of specific welfare schemes for minorities, etc.

Professor Shaban says, “In this period, the country has moved towards deepening the multicultural model of development as envisaged in the Constitution which in a sense heralds a new beginning”.

- tcn

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