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regular-article-logo Wednesday, 24 April 2024

Mamata Banerjee to hold meeting with imams and muezzins at Netaji Indoor Stadium on August 21

Attention on plea for hike in honorarium

Pranesh Sarkar Calcutta Published 18.08.23, 05:59 AM
Mamata Banerjee

Mamata Banerjee File picture

Mamata Banerjee is likely to hold a meeting with imams and muezzins at the Netaji Indoor Stadium here on August 21, said a source in Nabanna.

The meeting, the first such in recent memory, assumes significance as it is being organised at a time there is a demand for an increase in the honorarium of imams and muezzins, often regarded as opinion makers in the Muslim community. The ruling Trinamul Congress has a strong base in the community.

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“There is a demand that the honorarium of the imams and muezzins at mosques across the state be increased. It is significant that the chief minister agreed to hold a meeting with them on August 21 for the first time since the honorarium for them was announced in 2012. But it is still not clear whether the chief minister will announce any hike in the honorarium during the meeting,” said a source aware of the development.

An honorarium of Rs 2,500 a month for the imams and Rs 1,000 a month for muezzins was announced in 2012 after Trinamul came to power in 2011.

Initially, the state government used to disburse the amounts directly but later, the honorarium burden was passed on to the Waqf Board after Calcutta High Court had held that the state couldn't make such payments.

Now, the government transfers the funds to the Waqf Board which in turn disburses the honorarium among the imams and the muezzins. At present, nearly 32,000 imams and 20,000 muezzins receive the honorarium, sources
said.

Senior government officials said there had been a demand for a hike in the honorarium for the imams and muezzins for the past few years.

The honorarium has not been revised since it was introduced in 2012 because of financial constraints faced by the state.

As the state’s coffers are under strain, the chief minister may not be able to hike the honorarium immediately, said a source.

“But she can give an assurance during the meeting that her government would stand by the imams and the muezzins and whenever it got a chance, the honorarium would be increased,” said a bureaucrat.

Trinamul insiders said the meeting should be seen in the backdrop of speculations on whether the ruling party was losing a portion of its minority base. The hypothesis gained ground after the party lost the Sagardighi bypoll.

The recent panchayat polls, however, challenged this theory as Trinamul performed well in the Muslim-dominated areas.

“It appears the chief minister does not want to take any chance ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. As the imams and the muezzins have influence among the minority populace across the state, she is trying to keep them in good humour," said a minister.

Another source said the meeting would end up further consolidating Trinamul's Muslim support base.

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