The West Bengal Board of Secondary Education on Tuesday asked the heads of institutions under its jurisdiction to allow Muslim staff to leave their workplaces at 3.30pm — an hour before the completion of duty hours — during the month of Ramazan.
The instruction was issued a day after chief minister Mamata Banerjee assumed charge of the minority affairs and madarsa education department.
“This is to notify for all concerned that the Muslim teaching and non-teaching staff members of the recognised schools of WBBSE of West Bengal, may be permitted to leave school at 3.30pm during the month of Ramzan following the Memorandum of Finance Dept, Audit Branch, Government of West Bengal vide memo No. 7751-P(P), the 2nd August 2011,” read the notification dated March 27.
Several sources said although the order was issued for schoolteachers specifically, the heads of all state government offices had also been instructed to allow Muslim staff to leave at 3.30pm.
A district magistrate in south Bengal confirmed the directive. “Yes, we have been asked to allow Muslim employees to leave offices at 3.30pm during Ramazan. However, we are yet to receive any specific order in writing,” he said.
Although education department officials could not confirm the number of Muslim teaching and non-teaching staff members under the Board, they said the figure would not be negligible.
The instruction suggests that the ruling dispensation wants to reconnect with the minority community after the Trinamul Congress’s defeat in the Sagardighi Assembly bypoll. The Murshidabad constituency with over 65 per cent Muslims elected the Congress candidate who was backed by the Left Front.
Muslims form around 30 per cent of the population in Bengal.
The government took a slew of other measures also to woo the community in districts like Murshidabad and Malda with a major Muslim population.
In Malda, greeting cards from the chief minister ahead of Ramazan were handed to over 9,000 imams and muezzins by the officials and the staff of the district minority affairs department. The clerics were felicitated by the zilla parishad and district administrative officials formally and gifts were handed over to them.
A special drive was taken to raise the number of Hajj pilgrims. For it, awareness and information centres were organised at the panchayat level by the minority affairs department.
The result, said officials, was satisfactory. Usually, around 900 pilgrims go on Hajj every year from Malda, while the number is around 1,400 this year.