West Bengal’s Muslims are divided over the government’s move to reserve 10 percent of government jobs for socially, economically and educationally backward in the community.
While some dismissed the Left Front government’s decision as a gimmick aimed at winning back the support of Muslims ahead of next year’s assembly polls, others hailed the move.
But there was near unanimity that the job reservation announcement would be meaningless until the educational opportunities for the community were improved.
“We are not satisfied with the announcement. We demanded 20 percent reservation for Muslims in West Bengal and it is possible,” Maulana Md. Shafique, the imam of Kolkata’s Nakhoda Mosque, told IANS.
He said the reservation for the backward Muslims should be at all levels.
“If the government offers reservation facility to the Muslims only in government jobs, it will not benefit the community as a whole. They should first ensure quality education for backward Muslims.
“If Muslims are deprived of quality education, how can they apply for government jobs?” Shafique asked.
In West Bengal, 7 percent of government jobs are reserved under Other Backward Castes (OBC) category that includes Hindu and Muslim communities. Presently, altogether 12 Muslim communities, numbering about 16.83 lakh people, have been included in the OBC category.
“This politically motivated move is not going to improve the quality of life for the backward Muslims. It is just an electoral gimmick of the Left Front which has been rejected by Muslim voters in recent elections,” said Nadim-Ul-Haque, an editor of a city-based Urdu daily.
He said the government had taken the decision keeping in view next year’s assembly elections. “This reservation is already a failed initiative.”
Muslims comprise around 25 percent of the state’s population.
Noted writer and Muslim intellectual Ajijul Haque, however, holds that the reservation was first required in the educational sector.
“If backward Muslims can gain access to proper education, they can automatically get jobs. I wonder how these backward Muslims will get government jobs if they don’t have proper educational background.
“There are lots of complications involved in the issue. I don’t know how the government will identify the backward Muslims and offer them jobs. The government must ensure food and economic security first to these socially backward minority communities,” Haque said.
He quickly added: “At last the government has woken up. Any day, something is better than nothing.”
Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, who made the official announcement Monday, said the creamy layer – those who have an annual income of Rs.450,000 – would not be included in the category.
“It’s a very noble decision. I think there’s enough scope to bring changes in the lives of the backward Muslims. But yes, there has to be will behind the entire initiative,” writer Abul Basar said. “Now, wee have to wait and see how the government implements the recommendations.”