The state government's much-touted Rs10-crore Dr Zakir Hussain madrassa modernisation scheme has turned out to be a damp squib. Launched by the Congress-NCP government in September 2013 amid fanfare, the scheme fell flat on its face as not a single madrassa received the grant and the Rs10 crore allocated for it lapsed with the financial year ending on March 31, 2014.
Government officials blamed the model code of conduct, but sources said the minority and finance ministry officials are responsible for derailing the scheme which would have led to a makeover of Islamic seminaries. The ministry received 400 proposals from Islamic seminaries for modernisation till January first week of which 200 were shortlisted. But the file did not move from the minority ministry to the finance ministry till mid-February. By the time the finance ministry gave its nod, the Lok Sabha polls were announced and the model code of conduct came into effect. The Election Commission denied permission to the ministry to disburse the grant.
"The lapse was because of the delay by the finance ministry and the code of conduct. The 200 madrassas will be funded this year. Also, there is a proposal to fund more madrassas this year," said minority development minister Naseem Khan. However, Shabbir Ansari, who heads the Muslim OBC Sanghatna, said the government has cheated Muslims again. "It's shocking that a massive amount of Rs10 crore lapsed and the madrassas were kept waiting because of the tedious bureaucratic procedure. This exposes the lack of seriousness of the ruling parties when it comes to implementing schemes... they also failed to implement the 15-point Pradhanmantri Programme except for the scholarship which too is badly handled," he said.
Under the madrassa modernisation scheme, each Islamic seminary was eligible to get Rs5 lakh aid apart from linking it to the mainstream education system. The aid aimed at introducing the teaching of maths, science, languages and social sciences besides the regular Islamic education. The scheme would provide Rs2 lakh for infrastructure (drinking water, labs, toilets) and Rs50,000 for a library to each institution. The government would additionally spend Rs2.5 lakh for the salary of three teachers in each madrassa.
There is no clarity on when the madrassas would get the money as this year's funds for the scheme are yet to come. The Shiv Sena-BJP which had dubbed the scheme as an "appeasement policy" slammed the state government for its failure to implement it successfully. The madrassas which applied for aid are doing the rounds of Mantralaya since March, but officials remain evasive. "It seems all the paper work, time and energy have gone in vain. No one is ready to answer what happened to the scheme," lamented a maulvi from a Thane seminary. "The government has fooled us," said a teacher at a madrassa.
Over 1.48 lakh Muslim students are currently enrolled in 1,889 madrassas across Maharashtra, according to the directorate of minorities and adult education. All madrassas are run by "zakaat" (donation) given by Muslims during Ramzan. Muslims usually donate 2.5 per cent of their annual savings during the holy month for the welfare of people.