West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday said that a circular issued to build dining halls to serve mid-day meals in all state-run schools that have more than 70% minority students was not aimed at dividing children, PTI reported.
Banerjee said that dining halls constructed with funds from the Minority Welfare Department will serve all students, irrespective of their religion or community, The Hindu reported.
The circular was issued by the Cooch Behar district magistrate office (minority section) on June 25, asking the district inspector of schools to send a list of state-run and state-aided schools with more than 70% minority students by Friday. The circular said it was for a proposal for construction of dining halls for mid-day meals in schools.
The chief minister 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”. “That’s the government of India guideline,” Banerjee said. “We are following that. It’s a technical matter, nothing more.”
Banerjee said the idea was to pool funds from different departments so that the mid-day meal scheme can be implemented effectively. “It was not supposed to divide students in any way,” she said.
Banerjee’s clarification on the circular came a day after the Bharatiya Janata Party criticised the state government for the circular. “Why this discrimination between the students on the basis of religion?” asked West Bengal BJP President Dilip Ghosh. “Is there some other malafide motive behind this segregation? Another conspiracy?”
The Trinamool Congress called the allegations baseless and defended the decision.