West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on September 14, Monday, announced that 8,000 "poor Sanatan Brahmin priests" will be given a ₹1,000 monthly allowance and free housing. She also announced the formation of a Dalit Sahitya Academy, which will be headed by writer Manoranjan Byapari, and reconstituted the existing Hindi Academy, The Indian Express reported.
"Sanatan Hindu Dharma representatives demanded special allowance. They had earlier requested land from the government to build a Hindu pilgrimage site. We gave them land at Kolaghat for this. We also realised that many Brahmins are working as priests for many years, but they are very poor. To help them financially, the government decided to give them ₹1,000 and provide them houses under the Bangla Abas Yojna scheme. They have already submitted the names of 8,000 poor Brahmins. They will get their allowance before Puja," the CM said.
Many of these priests are not attached to temples and have regular day jobs, and many of them while doing these regular jobs, conduct pujas at customers' homes.
"We had already started a Santhal Academy. We already gave recognition to Santhali, Rajbanshi and other marginal languages. We have announced the formation of a Matua Development Board. The members of the development board are yet to be decided," Banerjee said, responding to criticism that this move might attract.
Talking about the Dalit Sahitya Academy, she said: "We respect all languages. We have decided to form a new Hindi Academy. We have also decided to set up a Dalit Sahitya Academy. Dalits' languages have an influence on the Bengali language."
The CM further announced the digitisation of the manuscripts conserved in Bishnupur museum.
"Bishnupur has a huge historical background of classical music and Sanskrit literature. They have manuscripts on palm leaves and cotton. Digitisation will help researchers study those manuscripts," she said.
In response to the Chief Minister's announcements, BJP leader Rahul Sinha said, "When Mamata Banerjee realised that her party will lose the coming Assembly elections, the government is talking about Brahmins, Hindi-Sanskrit and Dalit literature. Why did they not speak about these earlier? The people of West Bengal know that after the elections Mamata will forget these things."
Lashing out at the government, CPI(M) leader Sujan Chakraborty said: "At this time, the state government should have done something for the helpless youth or for the poor people. Instead of doing so, the state government is doing dirty religious politics. This is a very dangerous trend and unfortunate also."
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