Facing flak over a directive to build dining halls for midday meal in all state-run schools having more than 70 per cent minority students, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Friday said the circular was not aimed at dividing students in any way.
Asserting that it was intended to conform to the Centre’s guidelines on the use of funds, the Chief Minister said that the circular was crafted in a manner to figure out whether minority students are in greater numbers so that “we could channelise Minority Welfare department funds into this scheme”.
“That’s the government of India guideline. We are following that. It’s a technical matter, nothing more,” Banerjee was quoted as saying by news agency PTI. “The idea is to pool in funds from different departments so that the scheme can be effectively implemented,” she said.
The controversial circular was issued by Cooch Behar district magistrate office (minority section) earlier this week. It asked the district inspector of schools to send names of the government-run and government-aided schools having over 70 per cent minority students so that a dining hall for midday meal could be constructed. The circular also mentions that instruction for such a measure came from the State Minority Affairs and Madrasa Education Department.
The move has been slammed by the opposition BJP, terming it as minority appeasement. BJP state president Dilip Ghosh uploaded a copy of the circular on his Twitter handle saying, “The West Bengal Government has issued a circular whereby it has directed the school authorities where 70 per cent or more students are from the Muslim community to reserve a dining hall with seating arrangements for them. Why this discrimination between the students on the basis of religion? Is there some other malafide motive behind this segregation? Another conspiracy?”
The TMC, however, termed the allegations as baseless and defended the decision.
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