Unaware, Says Mamata After Circular on Dining Rooms in Muslim-dominated Schools Sparks Row
Taking on the state government, West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh questioned whether there was any 'malafide motive' behind the 'segregation'.
File photo of West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee (PTI)
Kolkata: Following a row over West Bengal government's directive on construction of dining rooms for midday meals in state-run schools in Cooch Behar district, having more than 70 per cent minority students, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee denied the knowledge of any such circular.
Clarifying on the issue, Banerjee said that she will immediately inquire into matter and the government would soon issue a clarification. She assured that all the students will avail facilities without any discrimination.
"I had no knowledge of this. This was an old circular which has already been withdrawn. I think some errant officer dredged out an old circular and issued it without the government's knowledge. I am immediately inquiring into this matter. There will be no discrimination of students on any grounds."
Earlier in the day, state BJP president Dilip Ghosh took on the state government as he questioned whether there was any "malafide motive" behind the "segregation".
Uploading a copy of the circular on his Twitter handle, Ghosh wrote, "The West Bengal Government has issued a circular whereby it has directed the school authorities where 70 per cent 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?" he asked.
The circular was issued by the Cooch Behar district magistrate office (minority section) on Tuesday asking the district inspector of schools to send the names of government-run and government-aided schools having more than 70 per cent minority students by Friday, for sending a proposal for construction of dining halls for midday meals in schools.
However, Banerjee has said, "The circular was worded in the manner to figure whether minority students are in greater numbers so that we could channelise Minority Welfare Department funds into this scheme. That's the GOI guideline. We are following that. It's a technical matter, nothing more. The idea is to pool in funds from different departments so that the scheme can be effectively implemented. It was not supposed to divide students in any way."
Senior TMC leader and Minister of State for Minority Affairs, Giasuddin Mollah, dismissed the allegations as baseless and defended the decision by saying the ongoing project will benefit all students.
"Our department is working to upgrade infrastructure of minority-dominated general institutions for the overall development of all students. The dining halls for mid-day meals will benefit all students, and not just Muslims. The funds has been sanctioned so we sought for a list of such schools," he said.
Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly and senior Congress leader Abdul Mannan criticised the state government over the order and said it cannot just segregate students on the basis of religion.
Senior CPI(M) leader Sujan Chakraborty said, "Students cannot be discriminated on the basis of religion. If a dining hall is being created it should be for all. We condemn such move."
Ghosh alleged that the Mamata Banerjee government is only interested in working for the development of Muslims in the state.
"The TMC government is only interested in working for the development of the minorities, in order to secure its vote bank," he said and asked, "What wrong has the Hindu students done that it can't avail the facility of dining halls."
(With inputs from agencies)
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