Ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, the Jain community was on Monday accorded minority status by the central government which will enable them to avail of benefits in government schemes and programmes.
The decision to grant minority status to the community of about 50 lakh was taken at a meeting of Union Cabinet, a day after Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi took up this issue with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
A group of Jains had met Rahul yesterday to press for their long-standing demand for minority status and Rahul then spoke to Singh in their support. The Jains became the sixth community to have minority status after Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis.
Minority Affairs Minister K Rahman Khan told that his ministry would soon issue a notification on the issue.
Once recognised as a minority, Jains would get a share in central funds earmarked for welfare programmes and scholarships for the minorities. They can also manage and administer their own educational institutions.
The community is already enjoying minority status in some states like Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan but the new decision extends that status across the country.
Numerically, the Jain community is small, with a population of about 50 lakh but they are prosperous, mostly engaged in business.
Khan said there had been a lot of representations from the community that they be treated as a minority. The ministry moved a cabinet note to this effect after Attorney General GE Vahanvati gave his go-ahead to their inclusion among notified minorities.