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Muslim MLA from Birbhum proposes pension for priests of West Bengal; earns praise from all parties

By Mirza Mosaraf Hossain, TwoCircles.net

The act of Milton Rashid, a Congress MLA from Birbhum District, to bring a proposal for the welfare of Hindu priests has been welcomed by political leaders from across the spectrum and earned him praise for his idea.

Rashid, who was elected from the Hasan block of Birbhum district, said his proposal was an indication of “ secular, democratic India”. On November 7, Rashid proposal a pension scheme for the priests of the state on the lines of the pension scheme for the Imams and Muyajjens are paid by the Waqf trust. “The Priests of my local Hindu community, especially the poor ones, are living a wretched life due to the low income from their profession. They are forced to beg in the trains, buses for one or two rupees and many of them have urged me to do something to stop this type of practice during my visit to the locality. So I felt I should raise this question in the Assembly,” Milton told TwoCircles.net.

He also raised the disproportionate amount of money between the State and the Central government allotted for the Muslim clergy. “While the Central government allots Rs 10,000 and Rs 8,000 per Imams and Muyajjens respectively, the State government of Bengal only allotted Rs 3,000 and Rs 2,000 per head respectively,” he said. The Assembly house has granted this proposal and on November 18, he was assured with a letter and told that it is under the finance department for consideration.

The proposal was wholeheartedly welcomed by the Hindu priests of the Birbhum district, especially by the poor. Many are of the opinion that if the proposed proposal is granted, the negligence towards priests would be duly addressed. Sharnendu Bhattacharya, a priest from Brahman Barua village of Mayureswar block in Birbhum, said, “Priesthood as a profession is disappearing day by day because of the financial insecurities. Due to the negligible money, we get a tip during Puja, the priests are bound to live in utter poverty as they cannot do any other job like a day labourer. If the government sanctions pension for the priests, the priests would have a better secure life.”

Sukumar Chatterjee, a 77-year-old priest from the locality, said to TwoCircles.net, “after the puja performance, sometimes I get Rs 5-10. It is very difficult to run any family solely depending on this money. If some money is granted to us, it would be very helpful for both doing the worshipping and running a family quite possibly.”

The proposal has also been welcomed by Muslim leaders from various parties. The only concern some of them are apprehending is about the finance needed for this allotment. “The proposal will be good if the present government implements it. Imams and Muyajjens are paid by the Waqf Trust through a proper channel that the government stipulates. Similarly, if priests are granted pensions, this allotted amount should come from Hindu trusts that the government would distribute without any inevitable apprehension of discrimination against other communities,” Dr Nurul Alam, the district President of All India Hajj Committee, Birbhum, said.

Sipon SK, the block President of the Trinamool run Minority Cell, Rampurhat II, said the same with an addition. “Our Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is the helmsman of development. So she must be looking this issue without attacking the sentiments of other communities by not allotting the money from the government’s funds,” he said.

Md Sabbir Hossain, the block Working President of Nalhati II of Congress Party, said, “The task of any government is to serve its people without any discrimination on the basis of religion, caste or creed. We hope the Chief Minister would look into this matter and would resolve it in order to maintain good governance.”