Social Security Plan Seen as Snubbing Minorities

NEW DELHI, India, SEPT. 27, 2005 ( The Catholic bishops’ conference of India says that proposed legislation on the maintenance and welfare of elderly people is discriminatory because it excludes Christians and Muslims.

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The government plans to enact the Older Persons’ Maintenance, Care and Protection Bill to ensure a minimum level of financial security for India’s close to 80 million elderly.

But the legislation has excluded minority communities such as Christians and Muslims, saying that they have their own personal laws to take care of the elderly.

This exclusion led the bishops’ conference to urge the government to revise the legislation.

“If that law is not applicable to all communities in the country, what is its use?” asked Father Babu Joseph, spokesman of the bishops’ conference, in statements published by the episcopate’s ICNS news service. “This is a discriminatory move.”

If the new bill on the maintenance of the elderly gets parliamentary approval, neglected parents can claim back the property they have transferred to their children.

About 80% of India’s 1 billion people are Hindus, 13.4% are Muslims and 2.3% are Christians. Catholics number about 16.6 million.

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