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CM proposes schemes for imams

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday proposed a monthly honorarium and a plot or house for every imam in the state.

In an attempt to prevent any controversy, Mamata has formed a task force comprising clerics to consider the schemes and decide whether they are acceptable.

“Please do not think that I am forcing these schemes on you. I understand you might have some religious compulsions for not accepting any of the schemes. Please convey your concern to the members of the task force. I will start the process of implementing the schemes only after the task force gives its nod,” the chief minister said.

Mamata proposed that each imam — there are “30,000-40,000” in the state, according to the chief minister — be entitled to a monthly honorarium of Rs 2,500 to be paid by the Waqf Board.

She also proposed a scheme — Nijo bhoomi, nijo griho (Own land, own house) — to solve the problem of housing that many clerics face.

“In rural areas, the government will give three cottahs to every imam and money to build a house on it. In urban areas, the urban development department will allot homes to imams,” the chief minister suggested.

She also proposed scholarships and stipends for the children of the imams. “Our imams do not have the means to educate their children. We will help them through loans, scholarships and stipends from the West Bengal Minority Development and Finance Commission,” said Banerjee.

Around 3,000 imams attended the meeting, announced last weekend, at Netaji Indoor Stadium. “This is the first time since Independence that a chief minister is holding a conference of imams in Bengal. We have a lot of expectation from Mamata Banerjee,” said Maulana Mohammed Shafique Qasmi, the imam of the Nakhoda Masjid in central Calcutta.

Union minister Sultan Ahmed, who was in charge of inviting the imams, said the chief minister had “kept her promise by meeting the imams and proposing so many welfare schemes for them”.