Bengal CM Mamata announces stipend, houses for Hindu priests, academies for Dalits
Banerjee said an academy for Dalit literature will be headed by prominent writer from the community, Manoranjan Byapari, who won the Bangla Akademi award, amongst several others.Updated: Sep 15, 2020 01:21 IST
With the West Bengal assembly polls in 2021 becoming crucial for her party, chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday made a series of announcements for the state’s Hindi-speaking, backward classes and tribal population as well as different religious groups. Banerjee also announced a monthly stipend of Rs 1,000 and houses for Hindu priests facing poverty.
“Many of them (priests) are very poor. They met me several times to seek help. We have given the priests a plot of land at Kolaghat for setting up a place for pilgrims. Priests who do not have houses will be given the same under the state’s rural housing scheme,” Banerjee said at a press conference in the state secretariat.
“Please do not think we are doing this only for Hindu priests. We are ready to help clerics from other religions as well. The state Wakf board already gives a stipend to Imams of the mosques. We thought of doing something for the others. The state has already given a 700-acre land to the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) at Nabadwip (Nadia district),” said Banerjee.
“The government will prepare a map of places of worship of all religions. The places of worship in poor state will be renovated and preserved. Those with no definite owner or trustee will be taken over by the government,” she said.
Describing the moves as a part of the state’s welfare measures for “people from all class, creed and religions,” Banerjee announced that a Hindi language academy will be set up. It will be run by prominent members of the Hindi-speaking population. She announced a series of names as well. Former TMC Rajya Sabha member and newspaper editor Vivek Gupta will head the committee.
Making another announcement, Banerjee said, “Similar academies for tribal people and members of the Dalit communities will be set up to help them preserve and spread their culture and heritage.”
Banerjee said an academy for Dalit literature will be headed by prominent writer from the community, Manoranjan Byapari, who won the Bangla Akademi award, amongst several others.
While referring to the Dalits, the chief minister specifically mentioned the Matua community who comprise a sizeable chunk of voters as well as a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Lok Sabha member. Also, BJP won all the three seats in the state’s western districts where the tribal population is significantly big.
The culturally important Baishnupur town, which incidentally is in Bankura where the BJP won the Lok Sabha seat in 2019, figures prominently in the chief minister’s new plans.
“Bishnupur was a seat of learning centuries ago and the local museum has an archive of more than 3000 handwritten scrolls on various subjects including Vaishnav literature. The state government will digitize these for preservation and research,” she said.
The Bengal BJP leadership said Banerjee was making desperate attempts to please Hindi-speaking people, Dalits, tribals and Hindu priests after doing nothing for them for 10 years.
“All these years she never thought of these people. Rather she used to target those who chanted the Jai Sri Ram slogan in front of her. She gave stipend to the Imams and attended all Muslim festivals. Her regime will be over in six months. People will not be fooled by these promises,” said BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha.
Significantly, on Monday morning Banerjee launched an all-new three-tier Hindi cell of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) while India observed Hindi Diwas. The cell will have separate committees at state, district and community block levels.
The decision, senior TMC leaders said, was based on recommendations made by election strategist Prashant Kishor who was roped in by Banerjee after the BJP won 18 of the state’s 42 Lok Sabha seats in 2019. The TMC’s tally came down from 34 seats to 22. The BJP poses a challenge to Banerjee in the run-up to the 2021 assembly polls.