New Delhi, Aug. 9: Bengal will receive an additional Rs 300 crore towards a rehabilitation scheme for abandoned Muslim women, having impressed the Centre with the progress of the programme last year.
A senior official at the Union minority affairs ministry said the state had received Rs 800 crore towards the scheme last year but will receive Rs 1,100 crore this year.
The scheme is part of the multi-sectoral development project (MSDP) for poor Muslim women, launched under the Prime Minister's 15-point programme for minorities, which followed the Sachar report on Muslims' plight.
Last January, a team led by the adviser to the Prime Minister visited Bengal to review MSDP schemes in minority-concentration districts and praised the state government for efficient use of central funds.
An official of the Bengal minority affairs ministry said the rehabilitation scheme was launched recently on the instructions of chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who holds the minority affairs portfolio.
"Under the scheme, the state will construct homes for Muslim women abandoned by their husbands in minority-concentration districts. We will also build market complexes where they can earn a living," the official said.
He said there were probably three lakh such Muslim women in Bengal, with one lakh living in Murshidabad district alone.
"We have drafted in some NGOs to get information about these women as there are no specific data. We have asked the district magistrates of South and North 24-Parganas, Birbhum, Murshidabad, Howrah, Burdwan, Malda, Cooch Behar and South and North Dinajpur to collect the data," the official said.
Most of these women were either divorced through an oral triple talaq, or driven out by their husbands along with their children.
Nearly 2,000 Muslim women have lodged cases with the Bengal women's commission in the past three years claiming they were victims of unilateral separation, denial of alimony and even torture.
"It's difficult to solve such cases under the law as the men in the community follow Muslim personal law, which allows polygamy. But we are trying to raise awareness among women so that they can fight for their rights legally," a commission official said.
Zafarul Islam Khan, head of the All-India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat, said: "Islam treats women as equal to men but lack of education among women is the main cause for their backwardness. Educated women have now started protesting against harassment by their husbands. The government needs to raise awareness in remote districts and villages to educate them about their rights."
To empower and instil confidence among minority women, the Centre has launched a leadership development programme under the MSDP in 90 minority-concentration districts. NGOs are to be provided financial support for conducting the leadership development training.
"The focus is on helping women assume leadership roles and assert their rights, collectively or individually, in accessing services, facilities, skills and opportunities besides claiming their due share of development benefits for improving their lives and living conditions," the official said.
The training module covers issues and rights relating to women, such as education, employment, livelihood, facilities and services available under welfare schemes. The women are educated about government schemes on health, hygiene, nutrition, immunisation, family planning, disease control, drinking water, sanitation, housing, self-employment, and skill training.
The scheme also covers the role of women in the panchayati raj, their legal rights, the Right to Information Act, and the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.