KOLKATA, 6 MAY, 2009: The state government has already introduced a special package for the uplift of backward Muslims of the state. The scheme, which aims at imparting vocational training to Muslim youths and encouraging Muslim students to pursue higher education, will be implemented through the Minority Development and Finance Corporation. It has already taken up development programmes for Muslims in 12 districts of the state. Announcing this at an election rally at Rajabazar on Tuesday, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee appealed to the people to elect CPM's Mohammad Salim from Kolkata North constituency.
Md. Salim, incidentally, is the corporation's former chairman. Bhattacharjee came down heavily on the Opposition and a section of the media for criticising the Left Front government for acquiring land from Muslim peasants in the state. "Why should we do that? Are we mad?" he asked. Citing statistics, the chief minister said of the 11.5 lakh acre, which the Left Front government had distributed among peasants since 1977, 25% went to members of the minority community. "We have recruited 11% of our teachers and 8% of our policemen from the minority community," he added.
Bhattacharjee, however, felt that still a lot could be done to bring Muslims back to the mainstream. The CM appealed to voters to elect Left Front candidates in order to bring a non-Congress, non-BJP government at the Centre. "The Left are gaining strength from various regional parties and we want to form a pro-people government at the Centre," he said. Bhattacharjee felt the issue of prime ministership would not arise at this moment. "We want to form government on the basis of a common minimum programme. We need to ensure the supply of essential foodgrains to the poor at the lowest price and give more land to the landless. We need to promote secularism and follow a sovereign foreign policy," he said. Bhattacharjee said the Left Front government had decided to supply rice at Rs 2 a kg through the public distribution system, thanks to the record production of rice in West Bengal. Though loadshedding plunged the area into darkness for about 20-25 minutes, the chief minister continued with his speech unperturbed.