None in West Bengal is objecting to the Mamata Government’s policy of improving the lot of Muslims and bringing them into the national mainstream, but the way it is being done, at the cost of other communities, has raised questions about the wisdom of the policy
Even independent-minded Muslims have opposed the payment of allowances by the Mamata Banerjee Government of West Bengal on grounds that a secular Government cannot act in such a partisan manner by favouring one community and discriminating others. They have also warned that this policy will sow seeds of discord and hostility between communities. The Government, to ensure the admission of larger number of Muslim students in medical and engineering colleges and universities, has set up new colleges and universities at an additional cost of Rs 1,000 crore.
Ms Banerjee has announced Rs 1.5 lakh worth of Government scholarships to those Muslim students who get less than 50 per cent aggregate marks at the school level.
However, rules provide that scholarships can only be given to those students who secure more than 50 per cent aggregate marks. Defending her decision, Ms Banerjee maintained that exception has to be made in case of Muslim students, as they are poor in studies.
Besides, 300 Muslim students have got admission into medical colleges and about 59,000 students have been admitted into other colleges and universities this year alone. Compared to this, admission of tribal students into educational institutions remains abysmally low.
For instance, the abject neglect of Ekalavya schools has aggravated the overall backwardness of the State’s tribals. The purpose of setting up this Centrally-funded residential school was to provide modern educational facility to tribal students, so as to equip them for the competitive job market.
When Ms Banerjee came to power in 2011, she personal took charge of the tribal welfare department. Hopes were aroused among the tribals that their lot would at last improve as she would implement various tribal welfare schemes, funded by the Union Government and her Government. But their expectations were belied.
Except for indulging in acts of tokenism like distributing free cycles and text-books among a few thousand tribal students and arranging their periodic health checkups, the Mamata Government did nothing to address the substantive issues that have always stalked the State’s tribals.
The Union Government wanted the Ekalavya schools to teach science and commerce subjects, but Ms Banerjee did not allow these schools to teach anything except arts subjects. Avenues for higher education for tribal students are getting increasingly blocked as Bengali-speaking general students are filling up the tribal quota of admission into colleges and universities. These schools are staffed with under-qualified teachers, taken on contract basis at one-third the salary of permanent teachers as a cost cutting measure.
Tribals under her dispensation are suffering on the job front too, since most of the State Government’s recruitments are done on the basis of contract, which has no SC /ST quota. Tribals, as a result, are getting fewer and fewer Government jobs, despite the fact that they account for seven per cent of the State’s population.
None in West Bengal is objecting to the policy of the Mamata Government — of improving the lot of Muslims and bringing them into the national mainstream. But the way Ms Banerjee is doing it at the cost of other communities, has raised serious apprehensions about the wisdom of the policy initiated by her.
Under Ms Banerjee’s rule, the minority nomenclature has come to be associated only with the Muslims, ignoring claims of other communities like Christians who account for three per cent of the population in West Bengal.
At the cost of other communities which too have backward sections, 97 per cent of the Muslim job seekers, who once belonged to the backward castes, have been given Government jobs from the 17 per cent quota reserved for the OBCs.
According to Maulana Siddiqullah Chowdhury, leader of the State Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Hind, “It is because of this reason that 25 Muslim candidates have been recruited into the State Civil Service.” He also demanded that to encourage Muslim youths to get Government jobs under the OBC reserve quota, Ms Banerjee should empower the Block Development Officers to issue OBC certificates to make this exercise hassle free.
To fight the high dropout rate among Muslim school students, Mr Siddiqullah has suggested that Ms Banerjee provides free cycles for students from class VIII onwards. He has also demanded exclusive nursing schools and colleges for Muslim girl students. Ms Banerjee has assured to consider these demands, sympathetically.
Mr Siddiqullah is a leader, who along with Ms Banerjee, had alleged that the Burdwan bomb blast was the result of a “Central Government conspiracy to give Indian Muslims a bad name”. But investigations by the National Investigation Agency have revealed that the Burdwan blast accused have links with jihadi elements of Bangladesh.
It is her fondness for the fundamentalists that Ms Banerjee sent Ahmed Hussain aka Imran, a founding member of the banned outfit, Students Islamic Movement of India, to the Rajya Sabha on a Trinamool Congress ticket, despite warning from the Union Ministry of Home Affairs.
To convince Muslim voters that she in “mind, soul and spirit, one of them”, her party has put up giant posters and cut-outs of her in overwhelmingly Muslim residential areas of Kolkata. The cut-outs show her dressed in burqa and hijab, offering namaz. Her political rivals in the Opposition, like veteran Congress leader Abdul Mannan, decry these acts as “electoral gimmick to befool Muslim voters who laugh at her for indulging in such ridiculous theatrics”.
“Muslims do not consider her to be one of them. They have come to realise that she, by her antics, is trying to take them for a ride. In the past, Muslim Congress leaders of the stature of Ghani Khan Chowdhury, Abdus Sattar, and those in Chief Minister SS Ray’s Cabinet, never indulged in such cheap gimmick to get Muslim votes. They too provided jobs for Muslims, but not by dividing society. The ill effects of Ms Banerjee’s ‘Muslim policy’ will be felt in the long-run. And it will be disastrous for the State”, warns Mr Mannan.
Source : Daily Pioneer