Devendra Fadnavis
Approval to the application was granted following a meeting of the state cabinet chaired by Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. Picture: Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis during the Make in India Week function, in Mumbai on Feb. 17, 2016.IANS

The Maharashtra government on Tuesday granted minority status to the Jewish community in the state. 

According to Press Trust of India (PTI), the decision was made on the basis of the Maharashtra State Minorities Commission Act, 2004, which gives the government the power to declare a community as minority. 

"Maharashtra Cabinet approves minority status to Jew community. This decision will benefit students from these communities to avail scholarships from the state government and setting up of educational institutions," Fadnavis was quoted by the agency as saying. It would also become easier for Jews to register their marriages and promote their culture.

According to the Hindu, the application was submitted to the government by the Indian Jewish Federation.

The Indian Express reported that an application was submitted by the federation to the Central government as well in April. Several leaders from different parties had brought up the issue in the Lok Sabha session concluded recently.

As per the 2001 census, 2,466 of the 4,650 Jews residing in India are in Maharashtra, PTI reported. But Jayashree Mukherjee, principal secretary of the minority department, was quoted by the agency as saying that there was no official record available with the state government on the number of Jews residing in Maharashtra.

"The Jews should have been given (minority status) long back, but somehow they weren't given. The government has no official records of the number of people in the community as their population is too less. But, according to them (community members), their population in the state is 2,466. As far as financial aspects are concerned, their inclusion will not have any effect on the state exchequer and the burden will be borne from the existing budget itself," Mukherjee was quoted by PTI as saying.

According to the IE report, the population of Jews in the country is dwindling with several moving to different places. However, the daily quoted the chairman of the Indian Jewish Federation Jonathan Solomon as saying: "We are very pleased with this decision and this will help in strengthening the Jewish community in India. On practical issues, it will provide immense help in strengthening educational institutions run by the community and also help secure community property that is spread across the state."

West Bengal, where about 43 Jews live, granted minority status to the community a decade ago.