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Congress claims discrimination by Gujarat govt in allocation of welfare funds for backward classes

Citing figures mentioned by the govt, Congress said the allocation for Scheduled Castes, Other Backward Classes and minorities is less compared to the higher allocation for unreserved classes.

GANDHINAGAR: The Gujarat Assembly on Monday witnessed a heated debate with the opposition Congress claiming that budgetary allocations for SCs, OBCs, and minorities are "very less" compared to the amount sanctioned for the welfare of unreserved classes.

Hitting back, Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Bhanuben Babariya said the government was committed to the development of all weaker sections and accused Congress of following the "divide and rule" policy.

During Question Hour, Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Amit Chavda sought to know the quantum of loans disbursed to the Social Justice and Empowerment Department by the state government.

In a written reply, Minister of State Bhikhusinh Parmar stated the government had disbursed loans worth Rs 1,167.43 crore and financial assistance of Rs 39.14 crore in 2021-22 and 2022-23 to ten different Boards and Corporations working under the department.

Citing figures mentioned in the minister's reply, Chavda said the allocation for Scheduled Castes, Other Backward Classes and minorities is less compared to the higher allocation for unreserved classes.

"Of these 10 Boards and Corporations, 8 are meant for the welfare of SCs, OBCs and minorities. What is the reason for allocating less funds to these sections even though they constitute a large part of the state population?

"You have allocated huge funds for the unreserved classes and very less for the backward classes. Why is this discrimination?" asked Chavda.

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Responding to a separate query raised by Congress MLA Imran Khedawala, minister Parmar told the House that the government had allocated Rs 11.25 crore to the Gujarat Minorities Finance and Development Corporation in 2023-24 while Rs 8 crore was disbursed to applicants.

Another Congress MLA Amrutji Thakor also referred to the government figures to allege discrimination in the allocation of funds.

"While Rs 50 crore was allocated to the Thakor and Koli Development Corporation (TKDC), the government had allocated Rs 500 crore in 2022-23 to the Gujarat Unreserved Educational & Economical Development Corporation," Thakor said.

Parmar said though the amount appears less, the TKDC, meant for the welfare of Thakor and Koli communities (which fall under the OBC category), had approved all loan applications it had received in 2022-23.

Senior Congress leader Shailesh Parmar pointed out that nine out of ten Boards and Corporations were not given any "financial assistance" by the government in 2021-22 and 2022-23.

Responding to Congress' allegations, cabinet minister Bhanuben Babariya said apart from the loans and assistance disbursed through these Boards and Corporations, the department runs many schemes for the welfare of SCs, OBCs, and minorities through scholarships and also housing schemes.

In the Budget 2024-25 presented in the state Assembly earlier this month, the Social Justice and Empowerment earmarked nearly Rs 3,300 crore for the welfare of SCs and OBCs.

"For 8 out of 10 Boards and Corporations working for SCs and OBCs, we have allocated Rs 293 crore in the Budget, an increase of 50 per cent from the previous year. Our government is committed to the development of all weaker sections of society, whereas Congress has been following the policy of divide and rule since the beginning," said Babariya.

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