Union minister Renuka Singh on Saturday said "anti-social elements backed by foreign funds" were taking advantage of the poverty and ignorance of tribals who are "Hindus" and trying to misguide them into converting by providing health facilities and education.
The Minister of State for Tribal Affairs went on to add that tribals were Hindus but confusion was being created over this.
"Tribals are Hindus but confusion has been created at many places. Some anti-social elements with foreign funds, taking advantage of the poverty and ignorance of these tribals, misguide (convert) them with education and health facilities, which is hurtful."
Singh said right now there is no national law against religious conversion using allurements, "but on getting complaints, we reach out to indigenous people and ask them to stay back (not convert) as the government takes full care of them."
In an apparent reference to tribals who had converted to Christianity and continue to get benefits of reservation, Singh said that "double benefits" being reaped by some was causing anger among a large section of the community.
However, Dalits who convert to Christianity do not get benefits of caste-based reservations.
"The situation does not demand reviewing caste-based reservation system or abolishing it. People need it," she clarified.
Queried on cancellation of former Chhattisgarh chief minister Ajit Jogi's certificates declaring him a tribal, the Union minister said the former was not a tribal, but also added that the issue would depend on the court's verdict.
In reply to a question on girls from Bachda community (in western Madhya Pradesh) being pushed into flesh trade as part of a social practice, Singh said the issue would be looked into and remedial measures put in place.
Speaking on development works carried out by her ministry, Singh said 60,000 'Van Dhan Vikas Kendras' would be opened, each at a cost of Rs 46 lakh, to market forest produce gathered by tribals.
The minister added that 600 sites had been earmarked for these centres.
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