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Daijiworld Media Network - Mangaluru

Mangaluru, Nov 23: Mangaluru South MLA J R Lobo recently announced the decision taken by the Christian Development Committee for the formation of Christian Development Board, which will work for the all-round development of the Christian community in Karnataka.

Lobo said that Karnataka Christian Development Committee held a meeting with Karnataka state minister K J George in Bengaluru on November 10. In the meeting it was unanimously agreed to establish a board.

He said that the need for a board came up as the Karnataka Christian Development Committee is facing constraints while doing development works and obtaining funds on time for approved projects.

In an exclusive interview with Daijiworld, MLA JR Lobo explains the challenges faced by the Karnataka Christian Development Committee and the reason behind the formation of the Board.

Sir, in a press meet on November 16, you had announced about formation of Christian Development Board. What is objective behind in forming a separate board for Christians?

Christians come under minority department. The department gets grants for minorities in a package. These grants are divided by the department between minorities based on their strength. Christians are very less in number. So their share is very less and it does not fulfill their needs.

Considering this, the previous government had formed the Christian Development Committee (CDC) for the welfare of all the Christians in the state. All this was due to the efforts of Ronald Colaco, the founder of International Federation of Karnataka Christian Association. He succeeded to bring the socio-economic issues faced by Christians to the government’s notice. His dedication led to the government forming the committee.

Why a need of a separate board when Christian Development Committee (CDC) exists?

Before answering your question, will explain you how CDC functions. CDC was a committee formed by the government and Chief Minister was the chairman for that committee. After Yeddyurappa, the next CM Siddaramaiah by default became the chairman. Since CM could not find time, he appointed K J George as chairman and the T John MLC, as Vice chairman .During BJP government though the allocation was Rs 50 crore, the expenditure was around Rs 20 to 22 crores only. Rest of the amount was getting lapsed.

Later for better functioning of the committee, KJ George formed a sub- committee and appointed me as its chairman for scrutinizing the proposals and making amendments.

What was the fund allocation and what were the schemes?

The government provided Rs 75 crore in the year 2013-14, Rs 100 crore in 2014-15, Rs 125 crore in 2015-16 and Rs 175 crore during 2016-17 for the purpose. The funds were utilized completely for repairs and development of churches and prayer centers, development of basic facilities in cemeteries, construction of community halls, towards orphanages, old age homes, rehabilitation homes for the differently-abled and assistance for students for postgraduate and higher education in foreign countries. We ensured that the funds did not lapse. Every year Chief Minister also raised the grants and funds. After T John completed his MLC term, in his place government appointed MLC Ivan D Souza to this committee and made him Vice Chairman in the place of T John.

Then why the demand for a Board came up?

We tried to give maximum benefits to the community through CDC. But we faced many challenges. We are always compelled to depend on the staff of Minority Department. It creates time gaps in implementing the programmes and distributing the funds. Even while getting proposals from district level, lot of unnecessary queries being raised, which were hindrances for the smooth functioning of the schemes.

Who raised the demand for the Board? Was it committee members or other associations?

Demands were there from all quarters of the community. The Archbishop also submitted an appeal to the Chief Minister when he met him in Bengaluru recently and urged the CM to form the Christian Development Board. Philanthropist Ronald Colaco was continuously stressing for a separate Board for Christians whenever he met the CM. When he met the CM recently, he reminded the latter about the same. He also raised the issue in many forums and created awareness for the need of such Board. As there were challenges in implementing projects, checking and verifying the applications, the entire CDC sub-committee also came to a decision to form a new Board for Christian community in Karnataka. We will also move the file to the Chief Minister.

Did you get any assurance from CM?

We are hoping that in the next budget the CM may announce about the Board and it may start functioning from next financial year. Once the Board comes into existence, we will get our own office, infrastructure, staff and related things.

How does the Christian Development Board differ from the current Christian Development Committee?

The current committee has no statutory back up. When as board is a legal entity. It will take decision and also implement them. In committee previously we need to depend on the Minority Department for proposals and also for implementation of the decisions. In Board, we can formulate new schemes and also have revolving funds. Beside this we can expect flexibility in entire process and procedures

If the Board is sanctioned by the government, will there be any extra benefits to the community?

Of course! Board can give special attention to individual economic development. It can also look into development of infrastructure. It can assist individuals to get various facilities from government. It can work in health, education, and other important areas which are very essential for the community.

What about the Board members and Chairman?

The government will appoint chairman and members for the Board. They will be from Christian community. But in my opinion, the Chairman should be the one who has sincere interest in uplifting the Christian community. The members too should have the same mentality.

Majority of Christians in Karnataka live in Dakshina Kannada and neighbouring districts. Any plans to bring Board office to Mangaluru?

No. Board office has to be in Bengaluru only. It will help in co-ordination with other government departments and government.