People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 41

October 10, 2010

Minority Development, Reservations

and Bengal Left Front Govt – II

Moinul Hassan


ALTHOUGH the people of Bengal are well aware about the consistent role of the Left Front government in ensuring the development of the minorities in the state, the recent data available underlines this fact emphatically. In the recent state budget for 2010-11, it was announced in the budget statement: “In the sphere of Madrasah education and development of minority communities, special priority has been accorded to the improvement of vocational and technical education along with the expansion of education and improvement of standards so that the students belonging to the minority communities can have wider opportunities of participation in the production process, employment and income. With this objective, along with upgradation of 112 junior high madrasahs to high madrasahs and 196 high madrasahs to higher madrasahs during the current year, 75 more junior high madrasahs will be upgraded to high madrasahs and 100 high madrasahs to higher madrasahs the next year. Vocational training in 160 high and  higher madrasahs is a part of the process of upgradation.


“In the sphere of higher education for Aliah University, stress has once again been given on modern vocational and technical education alongside teaching and research. A new campus for women in the university is being set up. In addition, a proposal has been moved from the state level for increasing the number of beneficiaries of pre-matric scholarship awarded to the students of the minority communities under a joint centre-state programme from 2.44 lakh in the current year to at  least 5 lakh in the next year. In this case a special initiative will be taken so that students get this scholarship regularly through bank or post office accounts opened in their names. Honourable members are aware that 12 districts, including Kolkata, are covered under the joint centre-state multipurpose plan for development of minority communities. I am happy to announce that from next year, the state government has decided to implement this multipurpose plan with its own funds in every block in which there is a concentration of minorities in the remaining 7 districts. It is necessary to mention in this context that for the purpose of employment generation and training of minority communities, the West Bengal Minorities Development and Finance Corporation has sanctioned in the year 2009-10, 100 crores as against Rs 63.28 crore benefitting 1.09 lakh persons in the year 2008-09. According to the latest data compiled by the Ministry of Minority Affairs of the Government of India, West Bengal now ranks first in the country in this regard. Having regard to all these overall priorities, I propose to increase the plan outlay of the Department of Minority Affairs  and Madrasha Education from Rs 121.0 crore in the current year to Rs 300.0 crore in the next year.”


Along with Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, Parsis and Christians who are regarded as minorities at the national level, even Jains are also recognised as minorities in Bengal. The Left Front government has been striving for the welfare and development of the minorities. For the development of the minority Muslims, there are nine autonomous bodies namely West Bengal Minority Development and Finance Corporation, West Bengal Minority Commission, West Bengal Wakf Board, West Bengal State Haj Committee, West Bengal Urdu Academy, Wakf tribunal, West Bengal Madrasah Education Board, West Bengal Madrasah Service Commission and Alia University. All these are engaged in various welfare and developmental activities.

The main activities that have been undertaken and the projects that have already been planned are as follows-


Hostels for Muslim Girls: Many believe that one of the reasons behind the socio-economic backwardness of the Muslim community is the prevalence of illiteracy among Muslims in general and amongst the Muslim girls in particular. Keeping in mind this very reason, a decision to set up hostels for Muslim girls in remote locations has been planned long back. The plan covers building of more than one hostel in each of the twelve districts. Already ten hostels have been set up. In the financial year 2009-10, two new hostels have been planned. Rupees 50 lakh have been allotted for building of such hostels in the year 2008-09. The allocation has increased and in the year 2009-10 it amounted to Rs 4 crore. A total of 21 girls’ hostels have been planned, this benefiting a large number of Muslim girl students.


Construction of boundaries for graveyards: Boundaries for 102 graveyards have been constructed in the year 2008-09 at the expense of Rs 3.77 crore in order to ensure proper maintenance of the graveyards. The allocation has been increased to Rs 4 crore in the year 2009-10 for this purpose. 16 boundaries have been constructed in 2009-10 and target has been set for construction of 50 more boundaries. Along with the government allocations, funds are also allocated from MP LADS and MLA funds for this purpose and the works are executed by the district administration. The Left Front government is sympathetically considering the demand for setting up another graveyard in the city of Kolkata.


Empowerment of Minority women: The loan scheme for women is a very effective  tool in empowering minority women. Divorcees or utterly destitute women who are within the age group of 20-45 years and whose yearly income is up to Rs 45,000 are given loans at 3 per cent per annum.


West Bengal Minority Development and Finance Corporation: Rs 20 crore has been spent in the year 2008-09 by this corporation. Under the fund for rural infrastructure development, Rs 2 crore was allocated for development of minority areas. Of this amount, till date Rs 1.81 crore has been utilised. The corporation, which has been set up in 1996 for the development of minorities in the fields of commerce and industry, provides loans at low interest rates to economically backward minorities. In the year 2008-09, Rs 89.53 crore have been spent in this regard.


Education Loans and Scholarships: The concerned department has been taking consistent steps in this regard. In the year 2008-09, 3336 students have received scholarship. Another 23,238 students received post secondary scholarship (central part) while 6935 got hold of post secondary scholarship (state part). The total number of recipients of pre secondary scholarship have been 64,924.


West Bengal Haj Committee: This committee makes arrangements for the Haj pilgrims from the states of West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, Assam, Manipur and Tripura. The state government provides financial assistance for meeting the various expenses of the pilgrims. Rs 1.50 crores has already been allotted for the construction of the new Haj building near Kolkata airport. The building has been recently inaugurated by the chief minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharya. The total expenditure for the construction of this centre will be Rs 5 crore. In the last season, the total number of pilgrims from the state was 7300. The state government and the Haj Committee are working together to make the entire journey of the religious people safe and comfortable.


Waqf Board: The Waqf Board has been vested with more power to discharge its work in more developed and smooth manner. A total amount of Rs 20 crores has been allotted. It has been decided that all waqf property under adverse possession or illegal transfer shall be restored and the income, which will be incurred out of the same property, shall be spent for the welfare of the Muslim community. An amount of Rs 2 crore has been allotted for the  board in the year 2009-2010. A total of 8737 properties have already been listed in the waqf schedule. The rent of famous Shaw Wallace Building and the Tollygunge Club building have been increased to Rs 7 lakh per  month. The one time earning has reached to Rs 2 crore. Now, the process of computerised documentation of all waqf properties has been commenced.


Urdu Academy: The prime aim of this academy is to propagate and encourage Urdu language and literature. The fundamental works taken by the Academy are educational programmes, announcing scholarships and prizes, printing and publication, running correspondence courses, and providing vocational training. The budget allocation for these purposes for the year 2009-2010 is Rs 2 crore. The Left Front government has decided that if someone writes the letter to the government departments in Urdu, it would be replied to in Urdu only. The government circulars have to be communicated in Urdu in certain places. Many more Urdu medium primary schools will be opened in the Urdu-speaking areas and soon the vacancies of the teachers will be filled in all Urdu schools. Already, Arabic has been included in Bachelors course in many colleges of the state. Now the priority is improvement of the quality of that education by appointment of efficient teachers. The government has already taken the initiative to appoint the efficient teachers.


Board of Madrasah Education: The Madrasah education in West Bengal has a glorious history and tradition. Keeping this in mind, the Left Front government extended autonomy to the Madrasah Board in the year 1994. The syllabus of Madrasah education has been upgraded and modernised with the commencement of the computer courses in 150 Madrasahs and inclusion of technical education in 89 others. The entire education system has been brought under the fold of Sarva Siksha Abhiyaan. The government has planned to build 10 Madrasahs as  centre of excellences. A total number of 8 lakh students are getting themselves educated in 576 Madrasahs and 185 Centres for Madrasah Education through out the state. Affiliation has been given to 200 child education centres and 300 centres for higher Madrasah education. It is hoped that soon these institutions will achieve the reorganisation of educational institutions in the academic year 2009-2010. Now, let us look at the unique characteristics of the  Madrasahs in West Bengal:


1.     With a countable exceptions, almost all Madrasahs in the state have co-educational system, which is indeed very rare in other states.

2.     Though the Higher Madrasahs are regulated by the Board of Madrasah Education, they come under the purview of state higher education council.

3.     Almost all Madrasahs are having a large number of non-Muslim students.

4.     A large number of non-Muslim teachers and non teaching staff are also appointed in the Madrasahs.

5.     It can be found that a large number of non-Muslims apply for the examination conducted by the Madrasah Education Commission for the posts of teachers in Madrasahs.


All these characteristics are a reflection of the  deep secular roots of tradition, education and culture of the state and they reveal the confidence of the people in the very spirit of secular democracy.


Alia University: The process to establish Alia University has already been  initiated, which will gradually become a modern university. The state government has extended all kinds of administrative and financial support to fulfil the dreams of the minority community that have been cherished for a long time. I personally dream of  having  Al Azahar University in our state in the near future.


[Source: The Economic Development Report 2009-2010 placed in the state assembly recently]


(To be continued)