Calcutta: The Mamata Banerjee government has nipped in the bud an attempt to communalise a welfare measure and project it as an example of “appeasement”.
Bengal BJP president and Midnapore MP Dilip Ghosh had on Thursday tweeted: “The West Bengal Government has issued a circular whereby it has directed the school authorities where 70% or more students are from the Muslim community to reserve a dining hall with seating arrangements for them. Why this discrimination between the students on the basis of religion? Is there some other malafide motive behind this segregation? Another conspiracy?” Leader of the Opposition and veteran Congress leader Abdul Mannan had raised the issue in the Assembly on Friday.
The Telegraph reported that a media release from the Bengal minority affairs and madrasah education department and a statement by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday made it clear that the objective was to pool resources and bridge the gap for the midday meal scheme, and that the dining halls were open to all students “irrespective of which community they belong to”.
According to a PTI report, Mamata said the circular was worded in the manner to figure out whether minority students are in greater numbers so that “we could channelise Minority Welfare department funds into this scheme” and it was meant to benefit all.
“That’s the government of India guideline. We are following that. It’s a technical matter, nothing more,” Mamata told reporters in her state Assembly chamber.
A circular issued by the Cooch Behar district magistrate office (minority section) on June 25 asked district inspector of schools to send list of names of state-run and state-aided schools having more than 70 per cent minority students by Friday, for sending a proposal for construction of dining halls for mid-day meals in schools.
In her Assembly chamber, Mamata initially said: “This was an old circular which had already been withdrawn. I think some errant officer dredged out an old circular and issued it without the government’s knowledge.” .