05/29/2009, 00.00
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Four Christians in Manmohan Singh’s governing team

by Nirmala Carvalho
Agatha Sangma is Catholic and the youngest of the 78 ministers. She is only 28 and is the Minister for Rural Development. Msgr. Fernandes, secretary of the Indian Bishops Conference, asks the new executive to work “to bring about an end to the culture that tolerates corruption, inefficiency, discrimination and fundamentalism”.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – It is the first day on the job for the 78 ministers of the Indian governments executive, which Premier Manmohan Singh describes as a “mix of experience and youthful energy”.  There are 50 years difference between the youngest and oldest Minister: Somananhalli Mallaiah Krishna, ex governor of Karnataka and now in charge of foreign affairs is 77; Agatha Sangma, is 28 (in photo together with Farooq Abdullah, President of the National Conference).

For supporters of the Indian National Congress and United Progressive Alliance (Upa) this age gap is a sign of a great vision of the nation that unites the past and the future.  For the Bharatiya Janata Party (Bjp) it is only a facade.  The Hindu party underlines that 7 ministers are under 40 and that this hides the fact that nothing is different to the first Singh administration.

The Indian Bishops Conference (CBCI) Secretary General Msgr. Stanislaus Fernandes, appreciates the new executive.  “The government – he tells AsiaNews - must be all inclusive and must take into consideration all aspects of the diversity and plurality of our beloved motherland India, our rich and varied cultural and religious heritage, our ethnic diversity, our linguistic dimensions, the needs of the various states”.

Of the 78 ministers 33 make up the Cabinet.  They include the Ministers of State who are entrusted with individual responsibilities’ within the Ministries.

There are five Dalit Ministers with Cabinet ranks and nine women, including Sangma, who is already on her second parliamentary mandate.  Daughter of Shri Sangma, leader of the National Congress Party, Agatha is Catholic and one of the 4 Christians who have been called to take up a ministerial post.  The others are A. K. Antony, ministry for defense,  K.V. Thomas, and Vincent Pala, ministers of the state. Sangma has been given the protfolio for rural development together with  Pradeep Jain of the Indian National Congress.

Msgr. Fernandes  hopes that the new government “works to end a culture that tolerates corruption and inefficiency, discrimination and communalism”. The bishop also prays that “with this new government, the  long pending Equal Rights of our  Dalit Christian will be resolved” and affirms that the bishops expect the executives commitment towards minorities.

“The CBCI - affirms Fernandes - does not only narrow our concerns to merely Christian issues and challenges, we pray for good governance” adding it is the Churches “sincere desire” that the new government “work for the development and uplifting of the weaker, marginalised sections of society, such as the rural poor, youth and women” and that “all peoples will be given their rightful place as equal citizens of this country”.


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