Tribune News Service
Kolkata, December 8
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday promised expanding the honorarium scheme for the clergy beyond the Hindu priests.
Addressing what was for all practical purposes a political rally, but touted as an “administrative meeting”, at Raniganj in Paschim Bardhaman district, Mamata said priests of gurdwaras and churches as well as tribal priests would also be given monthly allowance and appealed to them to apply for their inclusion.
The chief minister also announced that doubling of the honorarium amount from existing Rs 1,000 to Rs 2,000 was in active consideration of the state government.
After coming to power in 2011, Banerjee had announced honorarium for Imams and muezzins, a decision that was struck down by the Calcutta High Court. Monthly allowances of Imams and muezzins are now routed through the State Wakf Board.
While muezzins get Rs 1,000 per month, Imams get a monthly allowance of Rs 2,500. The BJP, not one to miss on such an opportunity, has been accusing Banerjee of discriminating against Hindu priests whose monthly allowance is less than what an Imam gets.
The BJP propaganda has evidently prompted Mamata to consider doubling the allowance of the priests. As of now 8,000 Hindu priests are getting the Rs 1,000 as monthly allowance in West Bengal.
Mamata today also announced Rs 2.76 crore for the development of “Majhi Than”, “Johar Than” and “Manasa Than”, places of worshipping of the tribals.