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Centre directs Andhra Pradesh govt to act against Christian pastors who received benefits using Hindu SC/OBC certificates

An NGO called Legal Rights Protection Forum had filed a complaint against the Christian pastors who were holding dual religious identities and were gaining benefits under government schemes

The Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment yesterday directed the Andhra Pradesh Social Welfare Department to take action against Christian pastors who received honorarium under Disaster Relief Fund by using Hindu SC/OBC caste certificates. The Union Ministry wrote to the Principal Secretary of the state Social Welfare Department to act as directed and submit the report of action taken to it.

The direction was issued by the Union Ministry after Legal Rights Protection Forum (LRPF), an NGO working in the field of law, filed a complaint in the month of September this year highlighting the scam taking place under the state government scheme to provide honorariums to all religious service renders in the state. LRPF says that real SC/OBC beneficiaries were deprived because Christians grabbed the benefits using their SC/OBC certificates.

The NGO also wrote to the National Commission for Scheduled Classes (NCSC) and the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) requesting to conduct an inquiry and to constitute a fact-finding committee in the matter. It also wrote to the Governor of Andhra Pradesh seeking an inquiry and requesting the cancellation of Hindu community certificates of Christian pastors wherever dual religious identities existed.

The LRPF also pleaded for the recovery of the amount already paid to the Christian pastors and for immediate action for preventing further misuse of taxpayers’ money in view of the state government scheme of providing monthly honorarium to Christian pastors.

Under the scheme, a one-time honorarium of Rs 5000 was being provided to all religious service providers including Archakas, Imams, Mouzzams and Christian Pastors in view of the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown. In an RTI filed by the LRPF, it was revealed that 31,017 Archakas, 7000 Imams and Mouzzams and 29,841 Christian Pastors received the honorarium of Rs 5000 which amounted to Rs 33.92 crores in totals. The NGO claimed that 70 percent of the 29,841 Christian Pastors who received the honorarium were holding Hindu SC/OBC caste certificates.

As per the report of the Commune, the 2011 Census shows the population of Andhra Pradesh as follows: Hindus- 90.86 per cent, Muslims- 7.33 per cent and Christians- 1.39 per cent. However, Christian Pastors formed 43.99 per cent of the total beneficiaries under the state government honorarium scheme. When the Jagan Mohan Reddy government announced a Rs 5000 monthly honorarium for Christian Pastors in September 2019, it did not mandate the submission of Christian community certificates and provided an opportunity to Christians holding Hindu community certificates to benefit from the scheme.

As per the data obtained through RTI filed by the NGO, it was revealed that 58.14 per cent Christian Pastors have Hindu SC community certificates and 13.37 per cent Christian pastors have Hindu OBC community certificates. In the complaint written to the NCSC, the NGO sought directions to the Andhra Pradesh government to submit to the Commission a list of the Christian pastors who had received that one-time honorarium of Rs 5000 with the details of religion/community of all the 29,841 Christian pastors. The NGO mentioned in its complaint that the Christian pastors were holding the dual religious identities to gain benefits provided by the government to Scheduled Castes and Other Backward Communities. It said that the Christian Pastors used their Hindu identities when seeking benefits under government scheme meant for SCs or OBCs and utilised their Christian identity to gain benefits of government schemes intended for Christian pastors.

The NGO claimed serious abuse and defrauding of public exchequer and alleged that the Jagan Mohan Reddy government was directly encouraging the Hindu SC community to convert to Christianity through the scheme.

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