Gujarat tribals fear losing grants

Rathin Das
Hindustan Times
(Gandhinagar, July 1)

IN ITS eagerness to keep an eye on any possible conversions, the Social Welfare Department of the Gujarat Government has made changes in the application form for seeking grants.

The forms now seek information on the tribals' religion and whether their parents have changed their faith.

Although the form does not specifically mention that the applicants might lose their benefits in case of change of religion, the tribals are apprehensive about the move behind the two new questions incorporated in the application form this year.

The Social Welfare Department, in its circular dated June 16, 1976, quoting a government resolution (GR) of former Bombay State dated May 14, 1958, had informed all concerned about the confusion then prevailing in some departments.

The GR of the Bombay State, quoted by the Social Welfare Department of the Gujarat Government in June 1976, had clearly mentioned: ". Members of the Scheduled Tribes even after conversion to Christianity, Islam etc. would not cease to be members thereof and would, therefore, be entitled to the concessions available to them before their conversion."

The organisations involved in burning of the churches in Dangs in 1998 had vehemently argued against the continuance of government benefits to tribals even after their conversion.

Since the process of granting scholarships to the tribal students is still on, no instance of denial has come to light so far. But, the issue has caused a major consternation among the tribals.

The tribals are clueless about how and when the two questions have crept into the application form. They are legitimately worried about losing their benefits in case a change of religion is reported.

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