Not discriminating, dining halls in Muslim-dominated schools is govt scheme: Mamata Banerjee

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said on Friday that the state government’s directive on the construction of dining rooms in Muslim-dominated schools is a government, the funds for which have been sanctioned by the Minority welfare department.

Asserting that the West Bengal government was not discriminating against the students of others religions, Mamata Banerjee also said that the circular was to figure out where the minority students were in greater numbers so the funds of Minority welfare department could be channelised.

Mamata Banerjee’s clarification has come a day after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) slammed the West Bengal government for its recent order on the construction of dining rooms in Muslim-dominated schools, terming it is as discrimination.

Senior BJP leaders condemned theTMC government’s decision, with BJP National spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao calling it “minority appeasement politics” and West Bengal party President Dilip Ghosh terming it a “purely political move”.

Mamata Banerjee said, “The circular was worded in the manner to figure where minority students are in greater numbers so that we could channelise the Minority Welfare Department funds into this scheme.” That, she said, is a Government of India guideline.

“We are following that. It’s a technical matter, nothing more,” Mamata Banerjee said. The West Bengal chief minister also said that the circular was not meant to divide the students on the basis of their religion in any way.

Mamata Banerjee said, “The idea is to pool in funds from different departments so that the scheme can be effectively implemented. It was not supposed to divide students in any way. This was supposed to be for schools that don’t have dining halls where students are forced to eat outside.”

MoS for Minority Affairs Giasuddin Mollah also said that the project is being carried out by the Minority Affairs department. “As per its mandate, the department is working for infrastructure upgradation in minority-dominated general institutions for the development of all the students.”

Giasuddin Mollah also said that the dining halls in the schools will benefit all the students and not just the Muslims. Since, he said, “the fund is being sanctioned by the Minority Affairs department, the project can be implemented only in those schools that have a sizeable population of Muslim students.”

“This has been constructed not just for the minority students but also for the children belonging to other communities. Children from other community will also be served in the schools. Since we have criteria that we need at least 70 per cent population, we have to identify the schools. The allegations of appeasement are baseless,” Giasuddin Mollah said.

The Department of Minority Affairs & Madrasah Education in West Bengal has released a press release, calling news reports on the subject as “distorted and wholly untrue stories on social media”.

The department claims that in order to build infrastructure to implement the mid-day meal scheme successfully, the state government “polls funds from the budgets of various education-related departments”.

“There is still a huge demand for dining halls under MDM in schools and this is why the Minority Affairs & Madrasah Education Department sanctions funds to eligible state-run schools for construction of cooking shed and dining halls, the statement stated.