Sunday, December 2, 2007

LF out to win back religious minorities

Statesman News Service
SILIGURI, Nov. 30: Sensing the growing discontent among the state's Muslims particularly after the Nandigram, Rizwanur and Taslima episode, the CPI-M led Left Front government is now all out to win back the religious minorities.
Keeping pace with this agenda, the state urban development ministry has instructed the civic bodies across the state to give special emphasis on the minorities, while planning and implementing various development projects. The ministry, headed by Mr Ashok Bhattacharya, is apparently so serious regarding the matter that it would soon organise special training programmes for civic personnel to sensitise them on the issue.
“We have asked the civic bodies to direct the development projects and schemes towards the improvement of the socio-economic conditions of the minorities. Moreover, from now onwards, the municipalities will have to earmark a part of their budget for the minorities, which should be proportionate to the minority population in a particular civic body area,” the minister said today.
The areas, which the urban development ministry has identified for the purpose, includes self-employment schemes, vocational training, immunisation and housing infrastructure.
“To encourage the municipalities to take up minority-oriented projects, the state government would provide them with additional funds as well. For instance, in case of constructing multipurpose halls in the minority areas, we would bear the major part of the total expenditures,” Mr Bhattacharya said.
In order to brief the municipality chairpersons on this latest ‘focus’, the urban development ministry today held a convention in which the chairpersons of the municipalities from six north Bengal districts in Siliguri participated. A similar convention has already been organised in Kolkata and two others will take place in Midnapore and Burdwan soon.
In another significant directive issued by the ministry, the civic bodies across the state will be required to spend 25 per cent of their budgetary allocation for the benefit of the urban poor.
At the convention in Siliguri today, the urban development minister also reviewed the volume of tax collection in the north Bengal municipalities. “The rate of tax collection, particularly property tax, is very poor in some of the municipalities and the civic bodies must pay heed to this,” the minister said.
As per the date provided by Mr Bhattacharya, the current rate of property tax collection in Mirik is two per cent, in Islampur it's eight per cent, in Mekhliganj 9 per cent and while it's 11 per cent both in Darjeeling and Malbazar municipalities.