Focussed on welfare schemes for SC, ST, minorities: PM

New Delhi, Aug 15 (IANS) The government was giving special attention to the welfare of the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and other weaker sections, including the minorities, by coming out with programmes that benefit them, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Wednesday.

"Our government has paid special attention to the welfare of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, minorities, women and other weaker sections," the prime minister said in his Independence Day speech.

"The special needs of our tribal and backward districts are being met through programmes such as the Integrated Action Plan, Backward Regions Grant Fund and Tribal Sub Plan," he said while addressing the nation from Red Fort.

Through the Forest Rights Act, he said, proprietary rights had been given to lakhs of people belonging to Scheduled Tribes on land on which they have been living for generations.

"We are formulating a scheme to ensure that people belonging to Scheduled Tribes can get fair and remunerative prices for the forest produce they collect," he added.

"The government wants to speedily convert the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Bill into a legislation. Through this law we want to provide funds for the benefit of our tribal brothers and sisters in the mining areas," he said.

He said the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government wants to make the 15 points programme for the minority community more effective.

The prime minister's 15 point-programme has zeroed in on four key objectives for minority welfare -- enhancing opportunities for education, ensuring equitable share in economic activities and employment, improving their living conditions and prevention and control of communal disharmony and violence.

The plan is also to improve the representation of minorities in government service and measures to encourage children's education.

The programme was unveiled in 2006 by recasting the earlier plan for minorities, launched in 1983 by the Indira Gandhi government. The re-launched programme stipulates that wherever possible 15 percent of targets and outlays under various schemes will be earmarked for the minorities.

The prime minister also said the government will further expand the multi-sectoral development programme in districts with large minority populations.

He also said that the government has further decided to enhance the amount of post-matric scholarship for children belonging to the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes and minorities to give them better opportunities.

"Our efforts to make these scholarship schemes more effective will continue," he said in his ninth address the nation.