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Nitish announces sops for Muslims in Bihar
Anand Mohan Sahay in Patna | November 12, 2007 13:56 IST
In an attempt to consolidate his Muslim support base in Bihar, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has decided to provide free textbooks to students of the minority community and Rs 10,000 to each student of the community who would secure first division in their matriculation board examination. This is the first such scheme in the state.
The decision came just ten days after his two-year-old government announced it will provide compensation to 128 families of the infamous 1989 Bhagalpur riots, who were till now denied compensation.
Nitish Kumar, who made inroads into the Muslim support base of Railway Minister Lalu Prasad during the state assembly polls in 2005, is eyeing to woo Muslims to his side before the next Lok Sabha elections.
Experts said there are 22 lakh Muslim boys in the 11-14 age group and 32 lakh in the 6-14 age group in Bihar. Of them, hardly 40-45 per cent of students attend school, which means about 18 lakh Muslim boys are yet to get into schools.
His government also observed the birth anniversary of India's first education minister Maulana Azad as Education Day on November 11. Here too, Bihar is the first state to do so.
Nitish Kumar said that state government had requested the centre to declare Maulana Azad's birthday as Education Day at the national level one year ago but the centre had failed to take any action.
Nitish Kumar is likely to hand over cheques of Rs 1 lakh each to the 128 families, who had lost their kin in the Bhagalpur riots.
Their earlier pleas for compensations were rejected on the ground that the bodies of their relatives had not been found or FIRs not lodged or not entertained.
"It was decided on the basis of the recommendations of the Justice N N Singh Commission set up to look into the problems of the riot victims and to trace families who were denied relief," a senior official in the chief minister's office said. The commission was constituted by Nitish Kumar soon after coming to power.
Nitish Kumar has already decided to grant pension to the families of those killed in the 1989 Bhagalpur riots. He submitted a petition to the Centre to accord the same compensation package given to victims of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots and the Gujarat riots. "A pension of Rs 2,500 would be given to one member of the affected family irrespective of the number of its members killed in the riots," an official said.
The official death toll in the riots was 853.
Muslims constitute 16.5 percent of Bihar's 83 million population. Till recenty, Muslims were regarded as the traditional support base of Lalu Prasad Yadav. It was with the overwhelming support of Muslims that Lalu and his wife Rabri Devi ruled Bihar for 15 years. They were ousted from power in 2005 by Nitish Kumar-led NDA only after a big section of Muslims voted against Lalu-Rabri.