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Maharashtra move to modernise madrassas hailed
Saturday September 7, 2013 6:46 PM, IANS

Ignoring criticism from the opposition to the plans of the Maharashtra government to modernise "madrassas" (Islamic seminaries), top minority leaders and scholars said the move would help transform the Muslim community.

"The scheme is intended to bring Muslim boys and girls studying in madrassas into the academic mainstream and help develop a competitive edge among them to face the challenges of the 21st century," Minority Development Minister Naseem Khan told IANS here Saturday.

Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan approved the proposal, first envisaged by Khan, to modernise 1889 madrassas in the state with an initial outlay of Rs.10 crore for 200 selected Islamic seminaries, starting this academic year.

"We are in the process of identifying the first 200 madrassas which will be given grants for modernisation. Within three years, we hope all the 1889 shall be covered and we will initiate the modernisation process," Khan said.

He pointed out that the state government's decision was in tune with the recommendations of the Justice R. Sachar Committee in the "Report on Social, Economic and Educational Status of the Muslim Community in India", submitted to the union government in 2006. The modernisation of madrassas was also part of the Prime Minister's 15-Point Programme for Minorities.

However, major state opposition parties including the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Shiv Sena and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena have criticised the move, terming it mere "appeasement of minorities."

All India Muslim Personal Law Board General Secretary Abdul Sattar Shaikh said the plan was "unique and great", and students in madrassas would be immensely benefitted.

"I think it is a revolutionary scheme and more than two lakh Muslim students studying in madrassas, many hailing from weak economic backgrounds, shall get the advantage of modernisation," Shaikh remarked.

"We have been waiting for some such positive measure since a long time. This time, the Maharashtra government has done commendable work in trying to seriously uplift the status of education, especially for poor Muslims," Jamait Ulma Hind Maharashtra President Maulana Mustaqeem Azmi said.

Describing the scheme as "visionary", All India Ulema Council General Secretary Maulana Mehmood Daryabadi said it is evident that a lot of planning and thinking has gone into the scheme to make it effective.

"Now, the officials must ensure that it is implemented at the ground level at the earliest... We have already lost a lot of valuable time and must not lose any more," Daryabadi urged the government.

Islamic scholar and head of Mumbai's well known Islamic seminary, the Dar-ul Uloom Mohammadia (in Bhendi Bazaar) Maulana Sayed Athar, termed the move as "great and timely."

"It is truly a timely initiative and the Muslim students will get the opportunity to learn English, Hindi and Marathi, besides other vocational courses by trained teachers," Athar said.

He called upon the state government to announce the names of the eligible madrassas at the earliest so they could start implementing the new scheme.

All India Shia Muslim Personal Law Board general secretary Maulana Zaheer Abbas Rizvi said that with madrassas now preparing to impart modern and vocational education, Muslim students from economically weaker sections will be at par with more competitive students when they enter the job market or choose to go for higher and foreign education.

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 and libraries.

In addition to this, three qualified teachers will be given grants for teaching non-religious general subjects like English, Hindi, Marathi, earth sciences and social science, besides mathematics.

Besides, madrassa students 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.

In an attempt to ensure that the funds are properly utilised, the state government has threatened to stop grants to madrassas which fail to ensure that their students appear for the Class X examinations.

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