Calcutta. May 2: Mamata Banerjee today announced a monthly honorarium of Rs 1,000 for muezzins working in mosques across the state.
Announcing the decision after a cabinet meeting, the chief minister said she had received requests to help the muezzins, who give the call to prayers.
“They are very poor. We have decided to provide this assistance as it will help in their socio-economic development. This is aimed at community development. A number of community leaders had requested me to do something for the muezzins,” Mamata said. “The Muslim population in Bengal is around 30 per cent, the highest in India. They have to be given equal opportunities for their socio-economic development.”
Last month, Mamata had announced a similar scheme for imams. Each imam would get Rs 2,500 a month as honorarium through the Wakf board. She had also announced a housing scheme for the imams and formed a task force with clerics as members to consider her proposals for the welfare of the imams.
Mamata said the muezzins too would be given the honorarium through the Wakf board. “The government also utilises the services of the muezzins to raise awareness about schemes such as the pulse polio drive. So the government should also do something for them.”
The chief minister said Bengal was not the only state to have offered welfare schemes to clerics. “We have not done anything new. Karnataka and Tamil Nadu had also offered similar financial assistance.”
Earlier, the government had proposed giving three cottahs to each imam in rural Bengal to build a house with financial assistance from the government. Mamata had also offered scholarships and stipends for the children of imams. Government sources said these schemes could be extended to the muezzins, although no decision had been taken yet.
“If the Ramakrishna Mission or the Bharat Sevashram Sangha place any request before me, I will consider those as well. Our government is also working for the development of shrines in Tarakeswar, Tarapith and Nalhati,” she said.
The cabinet also cleared reservation for Muslims under the other backward classes category. The Mamata government has decided to add 33 Muslim sub-castes to the list of 65 so that they get the benefit of reservation in educational institutes and government jobs.
“The previous government had passed a bill in a hurry and it was not approved by the governor. Court cases were also filed. We have completed a survey. The new bill will be placed in the next session of the Assembly,” Mamata said.