Mumbai, Sep 4 (IANS) The Maharashtra government Wednesday announced major sops to modernize and upgrade "madrassas" (Islamic seminaries) in the state.
The government has decided to allocate Rs 100 million (Rs.10 crore) as financial assistance to the madrassas for various academic purposes in the current financial year, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan said.
The move will benefit the 1,889 madrassas with a student population of around 200,000. Chavan said 200 of these madrassas will be selected for the grant this year with priority to those running for more than three years.
The madrassas must be registered either with the Wakf authority or the charity commissioner to avail the benefits.
The decision was sharply criticized by the Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena which termed it an "appeasement of the minorities".
Under the new scheme, a one-time grant of Rs.250,000 will be provided to the madrassas for basic infrastructure, drinking water, toilets, laboratories, libraries.
In addition, three qualified teachers will be given grants for teaching non-religious general subjects like English, Hindi, Marathi, science, social science and mathematics.
Besides, madrassa students who are now in the ninth or tenth class in local schools will get an annual scholarship of Rs.4,000 while those studying in junior colleges will get Rs.5,000.
Minorities Development Minister Naseem Khan said that the decisions have been made in tune with the 2006 recommendations of the Justice Rajindar Sachar Committee in the "Report on Social, Economic and Educational Status of the Muslim Community in India".
In an attempt to ensure that the funds are properly utilized, the state government has threatened to stop grants to those madrassas which fail to ensure that their students appear for the Class X examinations.
"The objective of the cabinet decision is to impart regular education in madrassas along with religious education to bring the Muslims into the national mainstream," Khan explained to reporters.