The demand for extending non-statutory concessions to converts from Scheduled Castes to Christianity is rising among both clergy and layman in the Christian community. In spite of change of religion, the SC converts also suffer from the same social disabilities as the SC Hindus and therefore should be provided similar benefits, it is said.
The A.P. State Christian Minority Finance Corporation (APSMFC) has sent a proposal to both the Telangana and Andhra Pradesh governments in this regard. In fact, there is already a GO (341) in this connection issued way back in 1977. But it is gathering dust with the result the Christians, a majority of whom are SC converts, are deprived of the benefits which they would have otherwise enjoyed. This GO was issued when the noted civil servant S.R. Sankaran was the Secretary, Social Welfare Department.
The main thrust of the GO is that mere change of religion should not become a bar to SCs from securing benefits which they would have been eligible to before conversion. The GO was issued in the light of the recommendations made by the State Harijan conference and the government resolved to extend the benefits to SC converts to Christianity and Buddhism. However, the SC converts will not be eligible to statutory concessions such as reservations in educational institutions and public services.
Presently the Industries Department and the Social Welfare Residential Society are implementing the GO while other departments have chosen to ignore it. Recently, the government has announced the Kalyana Laxmi scheme which seeks to provide Rs. 50,000 at the time of marriage to SC and ST girls and three acre land to landless SC families. Christians too can benefit from these schemes if the GO is implemented, it is said.
“The Telangana government is giving special focus on SCs and it is only appropriate that it implements this GO in letter and spirit,” says Navin Nicholas, managing director, APSCMFC.
For availing of scholarships, the income ceiling limit for SCs and STs is Rs. 2 lakh per annum while for Christians and minorities it is just one lakh. Similarly there are schemes like Best Available School, Toefl and GRE training and overseas scholarships for SCs. “If the GO is implemented all these schemes will be applicable to Christians also,” Mr. Nicholas said.