State govt to arm dalit youth in central Bihar

Our correspondent in Patna

In a move that may have far-reaching political and social implications, the Bihar government has decided to arm dalits and backward caste people in sensitive areas of central Bihar.

Youths will be imparted training on the pattern of home guards so that they can keep vigil on their villages. They will also be given arms by the government.

This was decided at the first coordination committee meeting of ruling parties in Bihar, which lasted over eight hours today.

According to All India Congress Committee general secretary and party in-charge of Bihar affairs Mohsina Kidwai, the state government also agreed to hold panchayat elections by February 2001. The last time local self government elections were held in Bihar was in 1978. A case relating to reservation in panchayats is pending before the constitution bench of the Supreme Court for the last three years.

Bihar is losing Rs 5 billion in central aid for development of rural areas every year as the panchayats have not been constituted.

Kidwai also released Congress president Sonia Gandhi's letter to Rabri Devi expressing concern over the deteriorating law and order condition in the state.

The meeting also decided to set up three commissions -- finance, industrial and infrastructure. These commissions will be asked to submit their reports within six months.

The state government rejected the Bihar Pradesh Congress Committee's demand for a judicial commission to probe the recent massacres. The state government said that it had already formed special courts to try those involved in the recent killings.

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