May 29, 2024
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Controversial Decision: India’s Largest State Halts Payments to Thousands of Madrasa Teachers

The largest state in India has halted payments to approximately 21,000 teachers in Muslim religious schools, known as madrasas, including those instructing subjects like mathematics and science, according to an official statement on Thursday. There is a possibility that these teachers may face termination of their employment.

The affected educators are employed in madrasas situated in Uttar Pradesh, governed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party. This decision has been made just before Modi seeks re-election for his third consecutive term in the upcoming general election scheduled by May.

Iftikhar Ahmed Javed, head of Uttar Pradesh’s madrasa education board, expressed concern, stating, “Over 21,000 teachers are set to lose their jobs. Muslim students and teachers will go back by 30 years.” Uttar Pradesh is home to a significant Muslim minority, constituting nearly a fifth of the state’s population and 14 percent of the overall population of predominantly Hindu India.

Human rights organizations like Human Rights Watch have alleged that nationalist groups, operating under Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), have harassed and threatened religious minorities, including Muslims, without facing consequences. The BJP has consistently denied these accusations.

A document reviewed by Reuters reveals that the central government ceased funding the Scheme for Providing Quality Education in Madrasas in March 2022. The Ministry of Minority Affairs managed this program until its closure. The document indicates that the Modi government did not approve any new proposals from states under this program between the fiscal years 2017-18 and 2020-21 before ultimately discontinuing it.

While the document does not specify a reason, a government official suggested that it might be because a 2009 law ensuring free compulsory education for children already covers regular government schools.

Government data highlights that the program, initiated in 2009-10 by the previous Congress party-led government, covered more than 70,000 madrasas in its initial six years. The funding for the program reached a record of about three billion rupees ($36 million) in the fiscal year ending March 2016.

Despite numerous requests for comments, both the office of Prime Minister Modi and the Ministry of Minority Affairs, which oversaw the program until its closure, did not respond. Shahid Akhter, a member of a government panel on minority educational institutions, emphasized the program’s benefits for Muslim children and called for its revival.

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