Mamata Banerjee to give special allowance to Hindu Priests

Poulomi Sikdar

Mamata Banerjee government to make Dalit Sahitya Academy and reconstruct hHindi Academy

Priests of West Bengal to get a monthly stipend of rs. 1,000 from the festive season, Mamata Banerjee, West Bengal Chief Minister announced on Monday. She also claimed that impoverishment and Covid-19 lockdown added to their woes and around 8,000 priests across the state have registered for the benefit.

With an eye on next year's Assembly Election, Chief Minister also  announced that “poor Sanatan Brahmin priests” will also be covered under the Bengal Awas Yojana scheme and provided with houses.

The Trinamool Congress chief also announced the formation of a Dalit Sahitya Academy, which will be headed by writer Manoranjan Byapari, and reconstituted the existing Hindi Academy.

"We have earlier provided land to Sanatan Bhahmin sect to set up an academy in Kolaghat. Several priests have met me and requested if we can do something for them. There are many in far-flung villages living in a lot of distress. Thus we have decided to pay them Rs 1,000 every month. Those who don't have a house will also be given one under the state Awas Yojana. They are very poor and a small financial aid can be helpful" said Mamata Banerjee.

According o the government report, The list of priests is still in the making and the state government will also expand the outreach to others from a different religion. "We will give the same benefit to gurus of Gurdwara and Church bishops if they approach us, please don't see this differently," Mamata Banerjee claimed.

Previously, the state government, in a similar outreach programme  had announced stipend for Imams and Mouzzins, that later clarified to be funds channelised from the minority Waqf Board but had drawn widespread criticism from opposition political parties who touted the move as Mamata's minority appeasement politics.

Political pundits call the move to pay monthly stipend money to priests as a coarse correction by her for a far wide outreach to Hindus ahead of all-important West Bengal Assembly Election 2021.

BJP had previously slammed the state's intent to pay to Imams and Mouzzins as lopsided and apathy towards Hindu Sanatan Brahmins. But the Chief Minister has hit out at political detractors warning them of seeing any politics in it. Due to the lockdown, several priests have suffered financial difficulties as all temples had remained shut for over two months and many of them had been dependent on obeisance offerings.

Many of the priests eligible for this allowance have regular day jobs and are not attached to temples. Many of them conduct pujas at the homes of customers while doing regular day jobs.

Responding to any criticism that this move might attract, Banerjee added, “Do not misconstrue the meaning of this announcement. We already used to give allowance to imams and muezzins. We are now giving allowance to purohits [Hindu priests]. If poor Christian padres come and demand an allowance, we will consider that also.”

Mamata Banerjee also announced that a 14 Member committee will set up the Dalit Sahitya Academy. The CM said, "We had already started a Santhal academy. We already gave recognition to Santhali, Rajbanshi and other marginal languages. We have announced the formation of a Matua Development Board. The members of the development board are yet to be decided.”

CM congratulated on the ocassion of Hindi Divas and said that Hindi Academy established in 2011 will be reconstituted, with editor and former Rajya Sabha MP Vivek Gupta as its chairperson and a body of 25 members.

The BJP enjoys strong support in Dalit and tribal communities, and in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections received massive backing from the Namasudra Dalit community, most of whom migrated to the state from present-day Bangladesh.

The Opposition party also enjoys the support of a significant chunk of the Hindi-speaking population in the state. While Kolkata and Howrah have a fairly large Hindi-speaking population, at least eight of the state’s 23 districts share borders with the Hindi-speaking states of Bihar and Jharkhand.

The TMC chief also said that manuscripts conserved in Bishnupur museum would be digitised. “Bishnupur has a huge historical background of classical music and Sanskrit literature. They have manuscripts on palm leaves and cotton. Digitisation will help researchers study those manuscripts.”

In response to the Chief Minister’s announcements, BJP leader Rahul Sinha said, “When Mamata Banerjee realised that her party will lose the coming Assembly elections, the government is talking about Brahmins, Hindi-Sanskrit and Dalit literature. Why did they not speak about these earlier? The people of West Bengal know that after the elections Mamata will forget these things.”

CPI(M) leader Sujan Chakraborty also lashed out at the government, saying “At this time, the state government should have done something for the helpless youth or for the poor people. Instead of doing so, the state government is doing dirty religious politics. This is a very dangerous trend and unfortunate also.”

Also Read: Kolkata men use hashtag #RheaChakrabortyofMyLife to harass ex-girlfriend; gets arrested

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