Muslim leaders in the Congress lambasted chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s claims of providing stipends to imams and housing schemes for the minority community, alleging, that only a fraction have actually received stipends.They also added that the ruling party is claiming credit for projects that are being executed with central funds.
“Only 200 out of nearly 30,000 imams in West Bengal have received stipends, that too not regularly,” said All India Congress Committee minority department chairperson Imran-ur-Rehman Kidwai, while addressing a party minority convention in Kolkata on Monday.Other minority leaders put the figure of stipend beneficiaries slightly higher.
State All-India United Democratic Front chief Siddiqullah Choudhury claimed that around 4,000 imams have received stipends while Qari Fazlur Rehman, who leads the largest Id congregation on Red Road in the city, told HT that not more than 3,500 imams have received the same.
“The chief minister’s claim of completing 99% of the work for minorities is false. Not a single project has actually taken off. The Centre is funding the housing project for minorities. The central government is financing 37,000 houses while another 54,000 will be financed by the Prime Minister’s fund,” said state Congress minority cell chief SMS Haidar.
Soon after coming to power in 2011, Mamata had announced a slew of sops for the minority community including stipends for imams and muezzins, scholarships for Muslim students, houses, schools and even hospitals exclusively for the community.But 20 months later, minority leaders have openly expressed resentment over her tall claims.
At a public meeting in the city on January 16, Furfura Darbar Sharif pirzada Toha Siddique, considered instrumental in turning the minority vote in Mamata’s favour, refused to accept the fact that 99% of the work has been accomplished.’ But the state government maintained that the pre-poll promises have been kept.
Addressing a public meeting at Bhangar in South 24-Parganas on Monday, Mamata claimed that she has implemented ‘99% of the Sachar Committee recommendations’.
“Every imam who applied for stipends have been granted the same. Stipends are disbursed regularly,” West Bengal minister of state for minority affairs and madrasa education, Giasuddin Mollah told HT. Mollah though did not deny that the Centre is funding the housing schemes.
“Every state is entitled to grants from the Centre. But it is wrong to say that that the Centre is directly funding the housing schemes,” Mollah said.
Government sources reveal that around R7 crore is needed every month to pay honorariums to imams and muezzins.
With the state government already bogged down with a huge debt of more than R2 lakh crore, the chief minister has come under flak from opponents for her proposal to fund imams and muezzins.