08/20/2020, 15.39
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Kerala bishops urge state government to help the poor and Dalits

by Biju Veticad

Under a 2019 reform, 10 per cent of all government jobs and admissions to higher educational institutions are reserved for disadvantaged families, regardless of caste. Enforcing the legislation would help thousands of Syro-Malabar Catholics.

Thrissur (AsiaNews) – Kerala’s Catholic bishops have appealed to the state government to implement a quota policy for the economically weaker sections (EWS) of the population.

Last year, following a constitutional amendment, a federal law was adopted reserving 10 per cent of government jobs and admissions to higher educational institutions to EWS, i.e. people who belong to families with an annual income of less than 800,000 rupees (US,600) and less than five acres of land.

Until last year's reform, which extended benefits to high caste poor, quotas were reserved to Dalits (outcastes), Adivasis (indigenous groups), and "other disadvantaged classes" in order to improve the socio-economic status of backward classes.

However, the central government left implementation to individual states. In Kerala the state government has not yet applied the measure, sparking the reaction of Archbishop Andrews Thazhath of Thrissur and Bishop Joseph Kallarangatt of Palai.

So far, the central issue for the Indian Church has been quotas for Dalit Christians. James Elavunkal, who heads the Kerala Dalit Association, noted that Dalits who convert to Christianity automatically lose their rights under the old quota system. "It is a social injustice against our constitutional rights," he told AsiaNews.

With the constitutional revision of 2019, even Christian Dalits would have access to government employment under the quota system.

For Father James Kokkavayalil, head of the Department for Community Awareness and Rights Protection in the Archdiocese of Changanacherry, the Syro-Malabar Church will achieve nothing if it does not speak out against the government.

"As Catholic leaders pointed out, thousands of members of our community could benefit from the reserved seats,” he said.

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