Andhra Pradesh: Christian Converts Enjoying Benefits For SCs Since 1977, Says NGO; Urges President To Remedy Injustice

Andhra Pradesh: Christian Converts Enjoying Benefits For SCs Since 1977, Says NGO; Urges President To Remedy Injustice Woman holding a Christian cross. Representative image (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Snapshot
  • While Buddhist converts are being extended benefits following constitutional amendments, the extension of the benefits to Christians “is arbitrary and in contravention to the Presidential Order of 1950 and the Constitution”, the NGO said.

    The Presidential Order of 1950 says that “only those who profess Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist religions will be considered as Hindu. The moment an existing SC person stops practising and professing the above religions, he ceases to be an SC and no benefit meant for SCs can be extended to him or her.”

A Hyderabad-based non-governmental organisation (NGO) has petitioned President Ram Nath Kovind against a 1977 Andhra Pradesh government order to separate benefits to Scheduled Castes as 'statutory' and 'non-statutory', saying it was intended to primarily benefit Christian converts.

In a letter to the President, the NGO — Legal Rights Protection Forum (LRPF) — said the Andhra Pradesh government order arbitrarily placed the benefits for admission to educational institutions and government jobs under the statutory provisions.

All other benefits have been categorised under 'non-statutory benefits' and have been extended to those from Scheduled Castes (SCs) who had converted to Christianity and Buddhism.

While Buddhist converts are being extended benefits following constitutional amendments, the extension of the benefits to Christians “is arbitrary and in contravention to the Presidential Order of 1950 and the Constitution”, the NGO said.

The NGO’s objection stems from its allegation that since 1977, almost all benefits such as allotment of land/house, free electricity, and loans that are intended to benefit SCs have been extended to Christian converts.

An estimated 80 per cent of Christian converts were from the SCs in Andhra Pradesh and they were enjoying the benefits facilitated by the 1977 order, the LRPF complained.

“The Andhra Pradesh government has no power to alter Constitutionally safeguarded Reservations or the provisions of The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order 1950 promulgated by the President of India. The Andhra Pradesh order is a violation of Constitutional provisions and the President’s Order of 1950,” the NGO said.

The Presidential Order of 1950 says that “only those who profess Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist religions will be considered as Hindu. The moment an existing SC person stops practising and professing the above religions, he ceases to be an SC and no benefit meant for SCs can be extended to him or her.”

The 1977, the Andhra Pradesh order snatched a big chunk of funds meant for the people of original SC communities that are provided by Central and State governments. It has continued for over 40 years now, the LRPF alleged.

The 1977 order was issued when Andhra Pradesh was undivided. Now, with Telangana being carved out, the benefits to SCs continue to go to the converts, the NGO said, and added that except these two States, no other State has meted out such an injustice.

In particular, the LRPF said that when a separate category of Backward Classes — C (SC converts to Christianity) had been created as part of Other BC reservations, the implementation of this 1977 Andhra Pradesh order gave dual benefits to Christian converts from SC communities.

Thus, the converts enjoyed SC benefits as per the 1977 Andhra Pradesh order, benefits under BC-C (SC Converts to Christianity) under OBC quota, various schemes of the AP Christian Minority Finance Corporation and various schemes of the AP State SC Finance Corporation.

The benefits act as direct incentives for conversion from SC status to Christianity, the NGO said, and pointed out that for the 2019-20 fiscal, the Andhra Pradesh government allocated under Rs 15,000 crore for various Scheduled Caste components.

The LRPF urged the President to examine the legality of the 1977 Andhra Pradesh Order and take steps to protect the interests of Scheduled Castes.

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