Maharashtra to modernise madrasas; Opposition says its minority appeasement

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Mumbai: The traditional teaching system in madrasas (Islamic seminaries) is set to undergo an overhaul with the Maharashtra cabinet on Wednesday approving a proposal for their modernisation and linking them to the mainstream education system.
The decision, ahead of assembly elections, was greeted with criticism by opposition parties, which accused the Congress-NCP government of trying to appease minorities.
The cabinet approved the proposal by the Minorities department for allocation of funds to modernise the Islamic seminaries in the state. "The Cabinet approved allocation of Rs 10 crore for the ongoing academic year," Minorities Development Minister Naseem Khan said.
Around two lakh students study in madrassas in the state, which has about 3,000 such seminaries, he said. "The decision has been taken in keeping with the Justice Sachar Committee's recommendation to bring those studying in madrassas into the mainstream," Khan said.
This year, 200 madrassas will be provided financial assistance, he said. Khan said each madrassa will get Rs 2 lakh per year and Rs 50,000 as one-time fund for library.
D Ed and B Ed-qualified teachers, imparting education in these religious schools, will get Rs 6,000 and Rs 8,000 respectively per month, Khan said. The decision was met with allegations by opposition that the government was trying to woo minorities ahead of polls.
"Even the Pakistan government does not give subsidy to madrasas, then why here," Shiv Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut said. His party chief Uddhav Thackeray said, "Now please tell us who the fundamentalists are. Not a single chance is lost to defame Hindus. How can one justify this."
Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray termed the decision as "politically motivated" and said it won't help the government in the polls.
"This decision is taken with an eye on forthcoming assembly and general elections...This is an old trick of Congress (to announce doles ahead of elections). However, Muslim community is well aware of the State's motive to derive political mileage...Congress has lost its credibility," Raj said.
BJP state president Devendra Fadnavis said the decision has been taken "keeping an eye on the (minorities) vote bank." "The government stopped grants to Marathi schools but has now decided to give financial assistance to madrasas. This is appeasement (of minorities)," the BJP leader said.
Meanwhile, Khan said, the madrassa students, who study in ninth or tenth class in nearby schools, will get annual scholarship of Rs 4,000, adding that the amount will be Rs 5,000 for 11th and 12th class students.
The Cabinet also decided to stop grants to madrassas, which failed to ensure their students appeared for class 10th exam. The objective of the Cabinet decision is to impart regular education in madrassas along with religious education, Khan said.
The madrassa, seeking financial assistance, will need to be registered with either the Wakf board or the charity commission, the minister added. The modernisation scheme aims to introduce reforms in the old system to enable the madrasas to keep pace with the modern world and bring its graduates closer to job opportunities, he said.
Governments in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan have also made similar provisions, he said.

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