Circular on Dining Rooms in Muslim-dominated Schools of West Bengal Sparks Row

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West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said that she will immediately inquire into the matter and the government would soon issue a clarification. — IANS file photo

Caravan News

KOLKATA — A major controversy has erupted over West Bengal government’s directive on the construction of dining rooms for midday meals in state-run schools having more than 70 per cent minority students in Cooch Behar district with the Bharatiya Janata Party slamming the government for its directive.

According to a circular issued by the Cooch Behar District Magistrate’s office, the state Minority Affairs and Madrasah Education Department have sought a list of state-run and state-sponsored schools with more than 70 per cent students from the minority community for the project.

The district education officials and school inspectors have been asked to submit a list of such schools where dining halls will be constructed.

West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh targeted the Mamata Banerjee government and questioned whether there was any “malafide motive” behind the “segregation”.

“The West Bengal Government has issued a circular whereby it 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,” Dilip Ghosh wrote on social media, criticising the order.

“Why this discrimination among students on the basis of religion? Is there some other malafide motive behind this segregation? Another conspiracy,” he asked.

Uploading a copy of the circular on his Twitter handle, he sought to know whether there was any “mala fide motive” behind the “segregation”.

“The West Bengal Government has issued a circular whereby it has directed the school authorities where 70% or more students are from the Muslim community to reserve a dining hall with seating arrangements for them,” Ghosh tweeted.

However, the state government has termed the allegations as ‘distorted and untrue’, saying that the Minority Affairs department had sanctioned funds as part of critical gap funding as there was a huge demand for dining halls in mid-day meal schools.

“The state’s School Education Department has allocated approximately Rs 200 crore for construction of dining halls under the mid-day meal scheme to cover 4,647 primary and 1,524 upper primary schools. But due to huge demand, the Minority Affairs Department and the Backward Classes Welfare Department are providing the critical gap funding,” a circular issued by the state Minority Affairs Department said.

Reacting to the issue, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said that she will immediately inquire into the matter and the government would soon issue a clarification.

“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.”

The circular was apparently 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.

Muslims constitute 27 per cent of West Bengal’s population and are a majority in a number of districts such as Malda, Murshidabad and North Dinajpur.

(With inputs from IANS)

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