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Monday, April 4, 2011

RESERVATION FOR BACKWARD MUSLIMS IN WEST BENGAL

8th February, 2010 is going to be regarded as a red letter day in the socio-economic history of West Bengal. On this very day Sri Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, chief minister of West Bengal, announced 10% reservation in the field of job for minority Muslims who remain economically, educationally and socially backward.

WHAT IS THE GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCEMENT?

Religion cannot be the basis of this reservation. The sole criterion is backwardness. From now on 10% job is reserved for Muslims who remain economically, educationally and socially backward. Already there is 7% reservation for other backward classes which reaches 17% with the addition of this 10%. This privilege is only for those Muslims who have been lagging behind. The leading Muslim population will not be under the ambit of reservations. Muslims having a yearly income of Rs.4.5 lakh or above are out of this reservation. Presently reservation will be provided in the job sector. The questions of providing reservations for backward Muslims in education are being discussed and will be finalised later. What is the process for the identification of the backward Muslims? A commission has been working in West Bengal on this regard.

After receiving application from relevant person the commission will investigate the case, summon the applicant as witness, visit the area if needed and will take the decision. 12 sections of Muslims are already in the O.B.C. list. 3/4 new sections are going to be included. Another 10/12 new applications are with the commission for consideration. Our honourable Chief Minister has declared to accelerate the total process. The total process will consist of three stages. Firstly, identifying the backward section; secondly keeping aside the rich section among them whose yearly income is Rs.4.5 lakh or above; thirdly supplying the identified persons with certificates by the respective Govt. office at the earliest. What will be the process of implementation? Whether it will be through a bill in the assembly or by an ordinance or by an administrative order—that will be finalised later after thorough observation. The Chief Minister himself has announced the formation of a committee that will look upon the entire situation Representatives from the state Minority Development, OBC Welfare Department and two commissions—Minority Commission and West Bengal Commission for Backward Classes would be engaged in this matter.

WHO WILL BENEFIT?

Muslim population in West Bengal is more than 2 crore. In percentage it is 25. 8.3% of the total Muslim population belong to the OBC list which numbers 16 lacs 38 thousand. In this state the OBC list comprises of 66 communities which include both Hindus and Muslims. Among them 12 communities are Muslim. These are – Jola, Fakir, Hawari, Dhuniya, Kasai, Nasya Sekh, Paharia Muslim, Sershabadi, Bayan, Hazam Choudhury and Pratidar. Apart from these applications from Khotta, Sardar, Beshdar are also under consideration. The number of ‘Khotta’s is greater in Murshidabad and Maldah amounting to about 10 lakhs. The number of these later three communities are as high as 10.5 lakh. In addition to these hearing is going on the basis of prayers from Mahaldar, Abdal, Basni and Kankhalifa. Presently, the number of persons who might be included in the OBC List other than those who already belong to the List is already 12-15 lakh. Apart from this there is a chance of three more communities to be included in the list. A few examples in this case might be helpful. There is a community among Muslims named ‘Guri.’ Theyare basically fishermen.. Actually they are called so because they catch tiny (Guro) fishes.

In my village only, there was a ‘Guripara’. Berhampore has a road named Gurimahal Road. Non-Muslims who catch fish enjoy reservations as schedule castes. The question is that why the Muslims doing the same work will be left out of reservation? In my village only, there was ‘Kolupara’. The Kolus make oil that means they produce mustard oil in wooden machine using cattle power. The number of Muslim ‘Patuas’ can not be neglected. They live in Midnapore and are inside reservation. But ‘Lodha’ Muslims in that same Midnapore are not under the ambit of reservation. The ‘Lodhas’ live on primitive hunting system and their behavior – custom are almost like tirbals but they are Muslims in their religious belief. In Midnapore there are also the ‘Kelas’ and ‘Kherias’ who have many things in common with the Hindu tribes. As Hindu the tribes are enjoying reservation but ‘Kherias’ miss it only on the ground of being Muslims. There is the ‘Ghoshi’ community in Barrackpore and Kharagpur who once came there from North India. They raise animals. ‘Tantias’ live at different places in Midnapore. They are connected with sericulture. There is a community named ‘Dhakuri’ at Amdanga a place very near to Kolkata. They are very few in number and very poor in status. They recycle old clothes by making ‘Dhokra’ (heavy bedspread). There is a community called ‘Penchi’ at Aurangabad in Murshidabad. Their number is considerable. Some Muslims earn their livelihood as cobblers. Hindu cobblers are inside the periphery of reservation but Muslim cobblers are left out of it. These are the specific reasons for expansion of the OBC list.

Presently there are 66 communities. The number will increase. When any community applies for inclusion in the OBC list, a hearing is taken to determine its status. The commission can also take initiative to do so. Today, some people question that number of applicants in this case will not be of a substantial amount and thus will include a negligible portion of the two crore Muslim population. But the reality is different. If all the backward Muslims are enlisted accordingly to the Chief Ministers announcement then the number will not be a small one. In this connection I am going to use some words of Dr. B.R.Ambedkar – Someone will get the advantage of reservation and some others will not as they have different worshipping process, it cannot be so. That means reservation is to be done on the basis of profession. If a fisherman or a cobbler gets the privilege of reservation, it will be so because he is a fisherman or a cobbler by profession, not that he is a Hindu or a Muslim.

THE PERSPECTIVE OF RESERVATION

The first and foremost perspective for reservation is the constitution of India. The constitution makes it very clear that religion cannot be the basis for providing reservations as far as education and job are concerned. This very belief is the manifestation of modern society. Expansion and strengthening of this value stands to be one of the main pillars of modern state polity. But some questions still remain unanswered – what will happen to them who are socio-economically backward due to various historical reasons? The Constitution itself provides the answer.” “Nothing in this article or in clause (2) of article 29 shall prevent the state from making any special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes. “– [Art. 15(4)] It is again stated “Nothing in this article shall prevent the state from making any provision of appointments or posts in favour of any backward class of citizens which, in the opinion of the state is not adequately represented in the services under the state.” – [Art. 16(4)]. I would like to present the relevance of article 29(2) in this case, – “No citizens shall be denied admission into any educational institution maintained by the state or receiving aid out of state funds on grounds only of religion, race, caste, language or any of them.” So it is clear that the Constitution provides enough imperative to the subject of reservation for economic, educational and social backward classes. The second cause is the actual situation of Muslims. A careful observation of the Indian Muslims clearly reveals the intensity of their backwardness.

However this backwardness varies from states to states. Rich cultural diversities are integral part of the concept of India. It has many different languages and opinions and as far as the concentration of Muslims habitats is concerned those remains to be scattered regionally. The socio-economic status of Muslims in West Bengal and Kerala varies. But this is a fact that the Muslims overall could not achieve equality as far as job and education is concerned. One cannot find Muslims in sectors like banking service and private educational institutions. Muslims are lagging behind in getting govt. loans. A ‘Fearless’ Bengali Daily has brought out its editorial column ridiculing the CM’s declaration about reservation. It is titled as ‘Love for Interest’. If I humbly ask, how many Muslims work in that particular daily, I am sure of receiving a number which will be microscopic.. The practical situation of today has become the prime force behind reservation. Although it cannot be denied that mere reservation can never be the gateway of development – political and social honesty is needed. If it is not there all facilities are going to leak out through the gaps of law. A third reason behind reservation is the report of Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission. In 2004 a national commission was constituted under Justice Ranganath Mishra to identify the socially and economically backward people among religious and linguistic minorities.

The commission was meant to recommend about the reservation and other development-oriented matters in the fields of job and education for this portion of the Indian citizens. The commission submitted its report to the Prime Minister in 2007. After that no proceedings and movements were seen in this regard. The leftists repeatedly pressurized to bring out the report before the Parliament. Some part of the report got leaked and was published in the Hindu newspaper. Later it was produced in the winter session of the Parliament in December, 2009. The commission has given suggestion on many issues like education, job, administration and legislative system. I am not going very deeply in this matter. Our friend comrade Sk. Saidul Haque has already discussed it on the pages of Ganashakti. I am going to mention the job oriented matter.

The recommendations are made considering the 16(4) of the Constitution. While the recommendations were made, the provisions of article 16(4) were kept in mind. I have mentioned about the article earlier. Two recommendations are made. Firstly, 15% post in every Central and State Government department must be reserved for minorities. 10% would be for Muslims and 5% would be for other minorities. If Muslim candidates are not found for the above mentioned 10% posts, then those would be filled with candidate from other minority communities. By any means it must not be done with candidate from the majority part. Secondly, if it becomes a judicial deadlock with the situation which cannot be avoided, the recommendation is that among the total population of other backward classer 8.4% is minority. For that reason from the total 27% reservation for OBC’s 8.4% seat must be kept aside for minorities. This 8.4% would be divided into two parts – 6% for Muslims and 2.4% for other minorities. Two things are also attached with this issue. One is that in the 3rd paragraph of 1950’sdirective principles of the Constitution, only the backward part of Hindu population was considered and they were recognized as Scheduled Caste. Sikhs and Buddhists were included later. It was done clearly on religious basis. Muslims, Christians and Parsees were not included and the reason behind that was an also religious consideration.

Then how does reservation remain a secular process. The commission justly recommended abolishing the directive principles of the Constitution of 1950’s. The recognition of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes should be done secularly. That means, the manner in which a portion of the Hindu population namely Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes are given recognition and reservation, Muslims and other minorities should also be given the same privilege of reservation like them.

The Chief Minister of our state welcomed the Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission’s Report on the very next day of its submission to the parliament. West Bengal Government has taken the recommendation and started to work on this matter not bothering about what the Central Government wants to do with the report or about the ‘Action Taken Report’ which has to deliver. The commitment of Left Front Government for the all round development of minorities has been proved once again.

SOME OTHER CONTEXTS

Leftists do not support reservation based upon religion. The Constitution of the country also carries the same essence. But for the upliftment of the backward classes the left has been constantly waging struggles in and out of the parliament and will also continue to do so as far as the fight for ensuring social justice are concerned. But to our greatest surprise we are watching those people are making the highest form of opposition who till yesterday believed reservation to be the only solution for upliftment of the minorities. The basic reason behind this has been envy of the ugliest order. They are actually scared about the reality. They are realizing that their existence will be at stake. The so called movements they were spearheading will now be blunt. The Left Front Government has excluded the ‘creamy layer’ from the ambit of reservation. Two or three days back a traditional organization of Muslims (led by incompetent leaders) has suddenly come up with a war cry-“we want reservations for all Muslims”. The Ranganath Mishra Commission however, has suggested for the exclusion of the creamy layer.

If owners of Pataka Industries, Howrah Biri or Wipro start demanding reservations it is going to be an absurd thing. Alas! Many people are forgetting that a minimum level of common sense is required even when you are blindly opposing something. The Left Front Government is committed to ensure the forward march of backward Muslims. The commitment is not only limited to the sphere of providing jobs; it also covers the basic and important questions of expansion of modern scientific education. The entire process is integrally associated with the overall development of West Bengal. And the present decisions of the Government will be recognized in that very spirit.

West Bengal LF Govt’s 10 % Reservation for Muslims Affirmative Action Must Be Welcomed

THE decision of the Left Front government in West Bengal to give a reservation of 10 per cent in government jobs for socially and educationally backward Muslims announced by the Chief Minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, is predictably being dismissed cynically as an election gimmick by the Congress party which cannot afford to openly oppose this move. It is, as expected, outrightly denounced by the communal outfits particularly their political arm, the BJP. The decision of the West Bengal government is based on the recommendations of Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission established on October 23, 2004 to recommend measures for the welfare of religious and linguistic minorities in the country. The CPI (M) had broadly welcomed the Commission and its recommendations. Though the Commission submitted its report to the prime minister in May 2007, it was tabled in the parliament only in December, 2009. The Congress party's prevarication on this issue is clearly established by this delay.

The UPA-2 government is yet to come with an action taken report on these recommendations. It is the normal practice that any report of a Commission constituted by the government of India must be brought to the parliament alongwith an action taken report. This lapse, hopefully, should be corrected in the forthcoming budget session. Only then will the country and the people know how the government intends to implement the recommendations of the Commission. The Ranganath Mishra Commission, amongst others, recommended that the criteria for identifying backward classes should be uniform without any discrimination between the majority community and the religious and linguistic minorities. It, therefore, suggested that the criteria now applied to determine the OBC status amongst the majority community must be unreservedly applied also to all the minorities. It is in this light that the Commission has recommended reservations to the religious minorities on the lines of the OBC reservation.

It has recommended 15 per cent reservation in employment under the central and state governments on this basis. Within this 15 per cent, 10 per cent is earmarked for the Muslim minorities commensurate with their 73 per cent share in the total minority population at the national level. The rest, ie, 5 per cent, must be earmarked for other minorities. It is on the basis of this recommendation that the West Bengal government has announced its decision. These recommendations are in tune with Article 16 (4) of the Indian constitution which states: “Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any provision for the reservation of appointments or posts in favour of any backward class of citizens which, in the opinion of the State, is not adequately represented in the services under the State.” The acceptance of the Ranganath Mishra Commission recommendations will necessarily take the percentage of reservations beyond the 50 per cent ceiling set by the Supreme Court. Since the reservations for the SC/STs and the OBCs at the state level are based on their proportion of population, in some states, the full quota of 27 per cent for the OBCs has not been utilised.

West Bengal is one such state where currently there is only a 7 per cent reservation of seats for the OBCS based on those identified as backward classes and their proportion in the state's population. With the current decision, the percentage of reservations under the OBC category will increase to 17 per cent with 10 per cent of this being earmarked for the backward Muslims. Amongst all other recommendations of the Commission, reservation for backward Muslims was first chosen as they comprise 25 per cent of Bengal's population. Further, in keeping with the longstanding understanding of the CPI (M), the creamy layer will not benefit from this reservation. The West Bengal government has announced that the families with an annual income of Rs 4. 5 lakh or more cannot avail of this. Inclusion of backward Muslim sub-groups in the state's OBC list is nothing new in West Bengal. At present, there are 12 Muslim sub-groups in the OBC list representing 16.83 lakh people. The state government has now identified another 37 Muslim sub-groups.

All these categories come under the category of backward Muslims as identified by the Sachar Committee report. These are the Ajlaf and Arzal categories. The West Bengal proposal excludes the advanced Ashrafs who are considered as the creamy layer amongst the Muslims. The state government has announced the setting up of a committee to identify and firm up the inclusion of sub-groups under the OBC category in order to ensure that the benefits reach those who most deserve. Ignoring this reality of backward Muslim sub-groups already being part of the state's OBC list, the BJP has, once again, mounted its communal offensive by charging the CPI(M) and the Left Front of appeasing the Muslims. Their anti-minority stance and the vituperative communal poison that they spread is too well known to need any repetition here. Such rabid communal politics is, in fact, the worst expression of vote bank politics in our country which seeks to consolidate the Hindu vote bank based on spreading hatred against the religious minorities.

While thundering that reservations cannot be based on religion, they conveniently forget that they continuously promote and defend reservations for the Scheduled Castes and the OBCs strictly within the Hindu religious fold only. It is precisely this logic that the Ranganath Mishra Commission has busted by saying that the criteria for identification of backwardness must be uniform across religions. The Congress party first needs to explain to the people its procrastination on this report for so long before mounting attacks against the CPI(M) for implementing what is widely recognised today as necessary for the integration of the minorities into the process of building of modern India. The yardstick of any modern democracy in measuring its success is the status and welfare of the smallest of minorities. The efficacy of any government in a modern democracy is to be measured by its success in ensuring equality of opportunity to all accompanied by proactive measures of affirmative action to bridge the gaps of social and economic inequality. The West Bengal government's decision is correct from this perspective and thus deserves to be welcomed by all Indian secular democrats and patriots.

MUSLIM QUESTION IN BENGAL: COUNTERING NEOLIBERAL PROPAGANDA

Before coming to the question of contemporary Muslim situation in Bengal and a calculated neoliberal propaganda orchestrated by bourgeois media and political parties like Congress and Trinamul, one needs to first analyse the contemporary situation of Indian Muslims as a minority group to which Bengal Muslims are only a part of that larger social group. In education, poverty, income and employment statistics—Indian Muslims are comparably more deprived than other religious communities along with Dalits and tribals as observed by Sachar Report. Arjun Sengupta Report has recently shown that Muslims along with dalits and tribals are the poorest communities in India and the poverty has increased among the Muslims during the phase of neoliberal economic reforms. 84.5% of Indian Muslim households spend not more than Rs. 20 per day and Rs. 609 per month. 13.3% of Indian Muslim households belonging to the Muslim middle income group as per the parameters set up by the above report spend only Rs. 1098 per month or Rs. 37 as daily per capita consumption expenditure (DPCE) which is not very high given the high persistence of inflation in the economy. Only 2.2% of Indian Muslims who are regarded as high income category by the report spends Rs. 2,776 or Rs. 93 per day. Given this above mentioned statistics, which claims only a meagre 2.2% of Indian Muslims belonging to high income category; it is difficult to argue that Indian Muslims are class divided. The partition led to the migration of Muslim elites and a sizeable section of upwardly mobile Muslim middle-class to the then West and East Pakistan.

Most Muslims who remained in India particularly in the bordering states like Bengal were poor and uneducated Muslims comprising a significant section of peasantry. Thus, even a cursory glance at the living conditions of Indian Muslims unravel the fact that the Muslims are the non-dominant community and a socio-economically, and educationally ‘backward community’. In terms of political marginalisation and under-representation, the Muslim political elite are almost negligible, as Muslims do not provide the economic and political leadership in the national mainstream. The gross under-representation of Muslims in various legislatures of the states and at the centre also affects the socio-economic development of the community, as the grievances of Muslim constituency are not addressed properly. Recently, the West Bengal Chief Minister said that the Minority question has to be addressed from a class perspective (Ganashakti, 6th Jan., 2008).

A survey of the data and available literature on the Indian Muslims amply state that Muslims are not only poor but also doubly marginalised. In this context of a class profile of Indian Muslims, Bengal Muslims belong more to the peasantry and the informal sector and thus constitutes a significant section of the working people. There is beyond doubt that the Muslims in Bengal like its all-India compatriots are victims of neoliberal policy regime. Today, the Muslim identity is overlapped with the identity of a poor and marginalised citizen under neoliberal dispensation. This overlap with the Muslim identity with the identity of poor and country’s labour force is an important caveat to keep in mind when we want to understand the current neoliberal propaganda of bourgeois media in connivance with bourgeois political parties like Congress and Trinamul against the Left and to accuse that nothing has happened to Muslims under Left Front regime in last 32 years and even saying that Muslim situation has worsened off in Bengal under the Left.

This allegation against the Left vis-a-vis Muslims in Bengal is nothing short of a calculated strategy of the neoliberal nexus of bourgeois media and parties like Congress and the Trinamul to divide the unity of the working people—comprised of a significant section of Muslims and to malign the image of the Lefts to serve the vested interests of the ruling classes. The concrete realities of Muslims in Bengal reflect to the fact that the identity and security of the community is guaranteed in the state under the Left Front regime. It is a well accepted fact that Muslims are more secure in Bengal than any other place in India without any communal riots and the Leftwing success of marginalising communal politics of BJP in the state. Furthermore, the identity of Muslim community as a distinct religio-cultural group with freedom of practising faith, establishing and running institutions of learning like the madrasas are also well acknowledged by both inside and outside the Muslim community in Bengal. Now, in terms of the question of equity, the Bengal government has addressed the issue in the past and initiated some important measures in the present for the overall socio-economic development of Muslims in the state. A summary of the relevant data, statistics and information regarding Bengal Muslims and the approach of the Left are of the following:

1. The success of land reforms under the Left has significantly benefited the Muslims. 30.9% of the rural households in West Bengal are Muslim households having access to 25.6% of the total cultivated land in the state (second only to Jammu and Kashmir with 30.3%). During 1992-94, landless Muslim peasants were 40% and currently reduced to 20%.

2. Bengal government has already put in place a 15% state level budgetary sub-plan for the advancement of minorities in the state since 2007. This step will ensure a targeted spending for Muslim minorities in all aspects of governmental expenditure. In all welfare schemes, specific attention for minority communities has paid dividends, eg. Among all self-help groups with access to institutional credit, 21.8% are groups with Muslim members (formed on the basis of same residential area). Among 17,512 ICDS projects in the State, 6,431 are working in Muslim areas employing anganwadi workers and assistants from the minority community.

3. The role of the state government in taking development initiative for the minority community has also been praised by the National Minorities Commission. Out of the 36 new colleges that have started in the state, 26 are situated in minority dominated areas. Out of 1600 new upper-primary schools, 800 would be set up in minority concentrated areas with 282 already given approval. For minority girls, 18 residential schools are being built. Within Kasturba Gandhi girl’s project, already 15 schools are built. In 2008-09 financial year, 23 more schools would be built for minority girls. To balance the teacher-student ratio, 4800 new teaching posts have been created with 2400 posts allotted for minority concentrated areas.

4. Till last year, when the Budget of the entire Central government for the development of minorities was at Rs. 1000 crores, West State Budget provided about Rs. 400 crores towards this department. All the 7-8 departments concerned with the development of the minorities have a special cell aimed towards efforts for the upliftment of the minorities. If we segregate the planned and unplanned expenditure that has been incurred by the Bengal government in the current financial year, then out of Rs. 100 crores are allocated in this regard and has already been overspent by the government amounting to Rs. 111.35 crores. Out of the Central grant to Bengal of Rs 68 crores, Rs. 3.27 crores are yet to be disbursed by the Centre. The unplanned expenditure of the state government in this regard has been a whooping Rs. 476 crores, whereas no other state government has allocated so much on the minorities’ development. Bengal CM has already approved Rs. 52 crores for educational development of Muslims.

5. In 12 districts, where Muslim population is relatively high, special offices have been opened to facilitate the development of the minorities in these regions. West Bengal is also the first state to plan in such a manner.

6. West Bengal has also started a new university named as Alia University aimed at providing quality education to the minorities with already 28 faculties being fully operational. In 2006, Alia Madrasa with a prolonged colonial history and its unique heritage has been transformed into a College status and an additional Rs. 30 crores have been spent for developing infrastructural facilities. In Bhangor (South 24 Parganas), a full fledged modern campus for this university would be built on 50 acres of land. Notably, this initiative in the recent past was also opposed by the Trinamul and created road block for this land acquisition process.

7. To increase vocational skills among minority students, the government has also given more than Rs. 5 crores. Over 1 lakh students hailing from the minorities’ community has also got scholarship from the state government as incentive to continue their education.

8. A scheme has been taken by the state government where Rs. 20-40 thousand will be given to women hailing from minority community to start commercial ventures. No guarantors will be required to avail these loans. About Rs. 20 crores have been provided by the state as capital to continue this scheme. Another Rs. 10 crores will be extended in the next financial year.

9. 10 Muslim girl’s hostels have been already built and 4 more are going to be finished soon in the state. For maintenance of these Muslim girls’s hostels, Rs. 4 crores have been allotted. In Kolkata, Rs. 2 crores have been sanctioned for building a working hostel for Muslim women. Both in Kolkata and Birbhum, the work for Muslim girl’s hostels have started and new buildings for Baker and Carmichael Hostels (meant for Muslim boys students) along with maintenance work of old hostels have started.

10. In the recent past, merit and need-based scholarships for Muslim students have been given through Chief Minister’s development fund amounting to Rs. 4.49 crores for 6197 students at pre-matric stage and Rs. 5.03 crores for 2223 students at post-matric stage. In 2008-09, 8500 Muslim students would be given scholarships of total Rs. 6 crores. For studying medical and engineering courses, 429 Muslim students have been given interest free loans amounting to Rs. 2.10 crores in 2007. In 2008, it has been increased to Rs. 3 crores for 500 Muslim students. Rs. 1.40 crores have been given to Techinacal Training and Cottage Industry Corporation to train Muslim students.

11. In the sphere of madrasah education, West Bengal has a unique system of running its 506 madrasas, affiliated with West Bengal Madrasa Board. Already, Rs. 6 crores have been spent for the second administrative building of Madrasa Board in Salt Lake. The curriculum of these madrasas combine subjects of English, Modern Indian languages, social studies, sciences, maths, Islamic history and Arabic. 110 junior madrasahs has been uplifted to the status of senior madrasahs in the state in the last financial year. In the current financial year, steps have been taken to set up 66 new madrasas, upgrade 110 junior high madrasahs to high madrasas and 89 high madrasas to senior madrasahs. More than 3200 posts have already been created to facilitate this development effort. West Bengal government bears the salaries of the Madrasa teachers of the state, a step which is unheard in many states. West Bengal has also constituted Madrasa Service Commission to impart quality and trained teachers at the Madrasas of the state. More than 52% teachers in Muslim dominated Murshidabad district are from the minority community.

12. In Urdu speaking areas, 200 nursery schools and 300 madrasas would be given approval shortly. 32 Alim madrasas have been upgraded to Fazil stage. In 125 higher secondary madrasas, librarians have been appointed. Rs. 50 lakhs have been allotted for libraries in these madrasas. Recently, in 100 madrasas, laboratories are made. With 300 new set-ups and 400 junior-high madrasas have been given approval to transform into high madrasas in the near future.

13. The Bengal government is also concerned for the promotion of Urdu language and for this purpose, Rs. 2.70 crores have been allotted for Urdu academy in the last financial year.

14. Rs. 4 crores have been approved for setting up boundary walls for graveyards meant for the Muslim community.

15. Rs. 2 crores additional grant with a total grant of Rs. 7.60 crores have been given to the Wakf Board. This grant can be increased in future if necessary. In Bengal, Wakf property reclamation, registration and survey work is going on.

16. Rs. 35.74 crores have been disbursed by the West Bengal Minority Development Corporation as loans to the people belonging from minority community. The state is also the first to create a minority development and welfare fund to cater to the minority community. West Bengal is also the first among the country in terms of success of giving loans to Minority community through the West Bengal Minority Development Corporation. The entire Rs 22 crores allocated in this fund have been spent for developmental purposes of the minority community.

17. In the state budget plan outlay for the Department of Minorities Affairs and Madrasa Education, an increase from Rs. 110 crores in the current year to Rs. 121 crores in the next year has been proposed. Since the entire responsibility of teachers connected with madrasah education has been taken by the State Government, the total budget of this department will be raised to the level of Rs. 524.11 crores in the next year. No other government has allocated so much money for the minority development in its state budget. An additional sum of Rs. 20 crores have been allocated by the State Government for this Corporation by way of assistance for training to further employment generation (already included in the programme for combating recession).

18. A second Hajj house namely Hajj Tower cum Empowerment Centre has been built near Kolkata airport. For Hajj pilgrimage facilities, an additional grant of Rs. 20 lakhs has been spent by the government. In 1977, only 600 people from the state went for Hajj pilgrim, while last year, 7996 people have enlisted themselves for the Hajj, and bulk of them is from the rural background. This increase is a result of the empowerment of rural masses due to the pro-poor policies of the state government. West Bengal is also the first state in the country to publish a guide book in the regional language for the benefit of the Hajj pilgrims hailing from the state. The state also started a website for the Hajj pilgrims and free SMS service to facilitate the Hajj pilgrims. In the field of housing, special emphasis has been given to allocate houses to the minority community.

All these combined efforts of the various departments have resulted in paving the way for all round development of the minority community in the state. This is not to say that there is no scope for further improvement of the Muslim community in Bengal. However, the CPI(M) led Left front government is determined to continuously work for the development of minorities and address the daily livelihood questions and better the socio-economic conditions of Muslims in Bengal. Furthermore, it is also determined to carry forward its political agenda in opposing imperialism and communalism. This consistency of fighting against both communalism and imperialism have been correctly noticed by a number of Muslim groups who have decided to support the Left and other non-Congress secular parties top form an alternative non-Congress and non-BJP government at the centre. Thus, it is the urgent necessity of our time that the unity of the working people and marginalised groups like Muslims under the leadership of the Left needs to fight both communalism and imperialism in order to form an alternative to the neoliberal policy regime.

Courtesy: http://www.cpimwb.org.in/

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