EVEN AS the ruling Trinamool Congress government is seen to be pulling all possible strings to ensure support of minorities, members of All Bengal Imam Muezzin Council put up an agitation in front of the office of the Board of Wakf on Tuesday demanding 100 per cent hike in the honorarium of Muslim clerics and muezzins.
Alleging that honorarium of around 55,000 imams and muezzins in the state have remained unaltered since its inception, protesting clerics met the chairman of the Wakf Board Mohammed Abdul Ghani. “We had presented a deputation with our demands comprising revision of honorarium of imams, health facilities for their families and education for their children,” said Maulana Akhter Hossain, secretary of the clerics’ organisation.
Imams and muezzins are demanding an increase in their monthly honorarium from Rs 2,500 and Rs 1,000 to Rs 5,000 and Rs 2,000, respectively. The organisation has also alleged that honorariums for many clerics have even stopped coming as many of their names have been excluded.
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Hossain said the clerics felt ‘cheated’ by the false promises made by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. “About four years ago, the CM had said that we will get our home under the ‘Nijo Griha Nijo Bhumi’ scheme of the state government, which never materialised. Now we want that imams should be given a home under the Gitanjali scheme,” he added.
Countering the CM’s claim that there was paucity of funds in the state, Hossain recommended that if the Wakf property was properly utilised, enough revenue could be generated for the welfare of imams. “At least 1000 acre of land under the wakf is available in Kolkata alone. If all this property is used efficiently, there will be more than enough funds for the imams and muezzins,” he said.
The organisation also sent a note of warning for the state government that if their demands are not met, they would launch an agitation after the Board examinations.
Talking to The Indian Express later, Ghani said it was not possible at the moment to increase the honorarium of the imams. “As far as the exclusion of the names is concerned, we have asked for specific complaints so we can take up each case and try and solve the issue,” the state Wakf Board chairman said.