Circular row: Mamata says wording a ''technical matter'', scheme to benefit all
Kolkata: Facing flak from the opposition, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was on the defensive on Friday over the circular on construction of dining hall in state-run schools having more than 70 per cent Muslim students, saying it was intended to conform to the Centre's guidelines on use of funds.
Asserting that the direction was not aimed at dividing students in any way, she said the circular was worded in the manner to figure out whether minority students are in greater numbers so that "we could channelise Minority Welfare department funds into this scheme" and it was meant to benefit all.
"That's the government of India guideline. We are following that. It's a technical matter, nothing more," Banerjee told reporters in her state assembly chamber.
"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," she clarified.
This was supposed to be for schools which do not have dining halls and where students have to eat outside under the sun. It is meant for all, she stated.
The circular was issued by the Cooch Behar district magistrate office (minority section) on June 25, asking the district inspector of schools to send list of names of state-run and state-aided schools having more than 70 per cent minority students by Friday, for sending a proposal for construction of dining halls for mid-day meals in schools.
The opposition BJP used the issue to attack the TMC government. West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh said Mamata Banerjee government is only interested in working for the development of Muslims in the state. The decision also drew criticism from other opposition parties in the state- Congress and CPI(M).
The TMC, however, termed the allegations as baseless and defended the decision.
"I had no knowledge of this. This was an old circular which had already been withdrawn. I think some errant officer dredged out an old circular and issued it without the government's knowledge," the chief minister was quoted as saying initially by the TMC.
Sources said the chief minister later spoke to officials who told her that the circular was only for Cooch Behar and clarified the reasons for issuing it.