Union Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment Ramdas Athawale has urged the Odisha Chief Minister and Biju Janata Dal leader, Naveen Patnaik, to consider joining the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). Athawale also called Patnaik a good friend and pointed out that Patnaik was earlier a minister in the NDA government.
"Earlier, BJP and his (Patnaik) party Biju Janata Dal used to have an alliance which doesn't exist now. It's okay that they fought the elections separately. I will be very happy if Biju Janata Dal joins NDA," said Athawale.
While addressing media in Bhubaneswar, Athawale spoke about the amended Citizenship Act and reiterated that the act does no harm to the Muslim community and that the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government are working for the development of Muslims in the country.
Athawale said, "If there is any trouble for Muslims due to the Citizenship Amendment Act, I will be the first person to draw the attention of the Prime Minister and the Home Minister." Stating that the Narendra Modi government was also committed to the welfare of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe, the minister said the Centre has sanctioned Rs 83 crore to Odisha in the past two fiscals. "Assistance has also been given for construction of 6,000 SC and ST student hostels in the state," he said.
Athawale also expressed grave concerns with regard to the state of Dalits in Odisha. After attending a review meeting on the condition of Dalits in the state, Athawale said it is painful to see a rise in such cases in Odisha.
"If provisions under The Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 are properly implemented, the cases would certainly come down," he said.
"Currently, the state government is providing Rs 2.5 lakh financial assistance for each inter-caste marriage in Odisha. If applications are made in a proper manner, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment will also consider giving an additional incentive of equal amount," Athawale said. In Odisha, 2,320 cases of atrocities against Dalits were reported in 2018, which increased to 2,469 in 2019, he added.
(With PTI inputs)