April 2, 2009

Minority Development: West Bengal showing the way

Kolkata: West Bengal is showing the way amongst all the states in the country in taking development initiative for the minority community of the state. In fact this role of the state government has also been praised by the National Minorities Commission. Mohd. Safi Kureshi, Chairman of the National Minorities Commission has also praised the pioneering efforts of the West Bengal Government and the West Bengal Minority development Corporation in this regard.
In the sphere of Minority education out of the 37 new colleges that has started in the state 27 is situated in Minority dominated areas. Apart from the educational aspects, various initiatives have also been taken by the state government to enhance the job prospects of the minorities also. Notably more than 22% of all the self help groups that has come up in the state constitutes of minorities. The chairman of the National Minorities Commission was satisfied after scrutinizing the ongoing projects aimed towards the minorities and infact told that west government is putting extra efforts in developing education amongst the minorities as well to augument the job prospects of citizens hailing from the minorities.
According to various national survey reports, the recipients of more than 25% of the lands distributed under the Operation Barga in West Bengal are from the marginal Muslim households. Muslims have also benefited significantly from the land reforms programme. The share of land cultivated by Muslims in West Bengal in total cultivated land is 25.6%, which is the second highest in the country (second only to Jammu and Kashmir where the share is 30.3%).

Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya has also demanded to the Central government to formulate a subplan for the benefit the minority community in the country. Though on a Central government level no extra efforts are being put to improve the condition of the minorities West Bengal clearly is taking the lead in the country for the all round economic and social development of the citizens hailing from the minority community. Till last year when the Budget of the entire Central government for the development of minorities was at 1000 crores, West State Budget provided about 400 crores towards this department. All the 7 -8 department concerned with the development of the minorities have a special cell aimed towards efforts for the upliftment of the minorities.
If we seggregate the planned and unplanned expenditure that has been incurred by the west Bengal government in the current financial year then we can see that out of the 100 crores rupees allocated by the state government in this regard has already been spent by the government in fact it spent 111 crore 34 lakh 86 thousand i.e. 1 crore 34 lakh 86 thousand more that what was originally envisaged by the government. On the other hand the out of the Central grant to West Bengal government of Rs 68 crores 3 crores 27 lakh 41 thousand rupees is yet to be disbursed by the Central Government. Mentionable that the unplanned expenditure of the state government in this regard has been a whooping 476 crores. No other state government has allocated so much on the minorities’ development.

Recently Abdus Sattar, west Bengal’s minister for minorities’ development, has informed that in all the 11 district of the West Bengal special offices has been opened to facilitatate the development of the minorities in these regions. West Bengal is also the first state in the country to plan in such a manner. West Bengal has also started a new university aimed at providing quality education to the minorities. Named as Alia University this university has also started operating and already 28 faculties of the university is fully operational. In Bhangor of South 24 Parganas more than 65 acres of Land has also been acquired for setting up a full fledged modern campus for this university. Notably this also the opposition Trinamool had created road block for this land acquisition process. To increase the vocational skills of the minority students the state government has also given more than 4 crore 58 lakhs. This money will be spent to give technical and vocation training to students hailing from the minorities’ community. Over 1 lakh students hailing from the minorities’ community has also got scholarship from the state government as incentive to continue their education.

West Bengal has also proved to be the torch bearer in starting schemes for minority women and to empower them economically. A scheme has been taken by the state government where 20- 40 thousands rupees will be given to woman hailing from the minorities’ community to start commercial ventures. No guarantors will be required to avail these loans. About 20cropres has been provided by the state as capital to continue with this scheme. Another 10 crores will be extended in the next financial year. The work of building girl’s hostel for students hailing from Muslim community, and working girls hostel for working girls from minority community are also on full swing.

In the sphere of madrasah education 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 with this as the objective, steps have been taken in the current year to set up66 new madrasahs, upgrade 110 junior high madrasahs to high madrasahs and 89 high madrasahs to higher madrasahs. More than 3200 posts have already been created to facilitate this development effort. Mentionable that West Bengal government bears the salaries of the Madrasah teachers of the state, a step which is unheard in many states of the country.
West Bengal as also constituted Madrasah Service Commission to impart quality and trained teachers at the Madrasahs of the state. More than 35 crore 74 lakh has been advanced by the west Bengal minority development corporation as loans to the people belong from minority community. The state is also a first to create a fund termed as 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 persons of Minority comminty through the West Bengal Minority development Corporation. The entire Rs 22 crores allocated i9n this fund has been spent for developmental purposes of the minority community. More than 52% of the persons who has found employment the school service commission in Murshidabad district are from the minorities community.

Keeping these priorities in view, the in the state budget plan outlay for the Department of Minorities Affairs and Madrasah Education is proposed to be increased from Rs. 110.0 crore in the current year to Rs. 121.0 crore in the next year. In addition, 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 crore in the next year. No other government again has allocated so much money for the minority development in its state budget. An additional sum of Rs. 20 crore has been decided by the State Government for allocation to this Corporation by way of assistance for training leading to further employment generation (already included in the programme for combating recession).

A second Haj house is also being set up in the state in order to provide to the Haj house Muslims. In 1977 only about 600 people from the state used to go for Hajj pilgrim but now the number has swollen many a times. This year more than 7996 people have enlisted themselves for the Hajj, and bulk of them is from the rural background. This increase has been effected due to the empowerment of the rural masses of the state 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 Muslims going on Haj pilgrim.
In the field of housing also special emphasis has been given to allocate houses to the persons from the minorities’ community. In all these combined effort of the various departments has resulted in paving the way for all round development of persons from the minority community in the state. In the minority dominated areas of the state there are about 48 police stations in the state which has resulted in a feeling of safety amongst people hailing from the minority community.