Minorities in India’Issues and Their Rights

“The 2011 census of India gives the percentage of the minorities in India as: Muslims, 13.4%; Christians, 2.3%; Sikhs 1.9%, Buddhists, 0.8%; Jains, 0.4%; other religious communities 0.6%; and those who have not stated any religion, 0.1%, while the Hindus constitute 80.5% of the total population.

“The Constitution of India, in Schedule VIII, recognise 22 languages. It also ensures the minorities, both the religious and cultural, the protection and promotion of their religious and cultural identities and allow them the free use of their language, script and culture by providing them all facilities of financial assistance. Articles 29 and 30 give the minorities cultural and educational rights, and this makes India a multi-ethnic multi- religious, multi-linguistic and multi-cultural society: diversities not only survive, they also thrive in India. Five minorities have been recognised in the country’Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and the Parsees, the Jains, having joined the list of minorities recently.

“The minorities, in India, have, as in other countries as well expressed their grievances from time to time, saying that no special efforts have been made for the protection of their interests: they are often discriminated in fields such as employment and education; restrictions are imposed on them in professing and propagating their culture. Some states such as Odisha, Arunachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and the like have passed state legislations curbing their religious activities. “They have their own complaints of ill- treatment at the hands of the authorities, especially those at the local level. Attempts to make the uniform civil code applicable have been suspected by certain minorities and regarded it as an attack on their religious and cultural identities.

“The other side of the story is also important: the minorities have been protected in India, despite the tensions aggravated in times of religious occasions. In politics, economy, education, entertainment and other fields, the minorities have been well represented: there have been the Muslim presidents, ministers, parliamentarians, state chief ministers in India; the Sikhs too have adorned positions of authorities; the same is true about the Christians, the Parsees in industry; India’s film industry is dominated by the Khans; Rajiv Gandhi as India’s prime minister was a Parsee by birth and married to a Christian’such examples have, in fact, no end. “The Supreme Court has upheld the rights of the minorities to protect and promote their culture, script and language by establishing their educational institutions (See State of Bombay v. Bombay Education Society, 1995; Usha Mehta v. State of Maharashtra, 2004; and TMA Pai v. State of Karnataka, 2002).

“The 1992 Act of the Parliament established a National Commission for Minorities (NCM) : the central government constitutes NCM which has to have a chairperson, a vice-chairperson and five other members, each for a period of three years.

“The major functions of NCM are:

(a) to evaluate the progress of the development of the minorities;

(b) to monitor the working of safeguards provided in the Constitutions and in the laws of

the legislatures;

(c) to make recommendations for the effective implementation of safeguards for the protection of the rights of the minorities;

(d) to look into their specific complaints regarding the deprivation of their rights. ‘”The Commission on Minorities acts as a civil court.

(f) “The Elderly in India’Issues and “Their Rights “The population of the elderly persons is on the increase. “The UNESCO estimates that the number of the aged (60+) was over around 50 crore in the world, in 2005, which figure, is likely to be doubled by 2025. By 2025, the elderly people are likely to be more than the young, and may cross beyond 200 crore by 2050. In India, there were around two crores elderly persons in 1951 which figure has risen to 7.2 crores in 2001 and 7.6 crores in 2011, constituting in 2011, 7.8% of the total population of the country. “This percentage is likely to touch 18% by 2025. Increasing longevity, better living conditions and healthy life-styles are some of the major factors responsible for the ever- increasing number of the elderly people. ‘Elder abuse’ or what the British scientific journal had once termed ‘Granny Bashing’ has been a social evil faced by every society.

“The elders have been subject to physical, psychological, financial abuses which include, among others, economic deprivation, social isolation and familiar neglect, especially the widows: the elders are duped of their property and dumped by none else than their own people’sons, daughters and daughters-in-law (a report of 2012 estimated the cases of relatives’ abuse to 50%); they are left alone when they become old, and are unable to do any work; they are denied of the basic medical/health facilities and are forced to live on nature; they are, at times, left on the roadside or shown the gates of the Help Age institutions; they are ill-treated by the society: their body- organs are sold in the name of medical check-up; quite some of the elders, holding the bars of the Help Age room window, hoping that their relatives would come to take them back home: most of them have, in vain, nowhere to go. All the efforts of such victims of old age for seeking justice by the government have hardly yielded any result.

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