Buttering up Nitish government: Muslim journalists’ favourite pastime in Bihar

By Saroor Ahmed

Sycophancy has its limit. And when one crosses it s/he loses all the self-respect. But the journalists and opinion-makers, in Bihar, especially Muslims, are caring little about it and are indulging in bootlicking of a unique sort.

Not to speak of Urdu media, which even fear to publish the comment of the opposition leaders, Muslims working in English and Hindi Press are going to any extent to come up with fantastic stories about the so-called performance of the Nitish Kumar government.

Read these opening lines of the story filed by Faizan Ahmad, the Times of India’s special correspondent in Patna: “Sometimes incentives make a world of difference. Even when it comes to education. Take for instance the state government’s cash incentive to Muslim students: money sure has helped mint merit. The scheme has resulted in a record jump in the number of Muslim students securing first division in the Matriculation exams.”

Then in the very second paragraph of the same story published on August 13, 2009 he quoted Shahid Ali Khan, the minister of minority welfare in the Nitish Kumar government: “The increase is over 100 per cent and the credit goes to the state government’s policy of giving cash incentive to each Muslim student passing out with a first division.”

The news story goes on to state that “The Nitish Kumar government in 2007 announced a reward of Rs 10,000 to each Muslim student securing first division at the Matriculation exam. That year a total of 2,627 Muslim students had passed out with first division. In 2008, this number swelled to 5,800 and in 2009 the number shot up to 11,500.”

Wait a moment and read what Khan told the same newspaper in the same news-story: “Students of 2008 batch will be handed over the reward money very soon and applications are being collected from the 2009 first divisioners.”

May one ask Faizan Ahmad and Shahid Ali Khan as to how is it that the Muslim students performed so well and the number of first divisioners got doubled when according to them they have not got the reward money of 2008, not to speak of 2009?

The big question is if the Muslim students did not get a single penny how is it that the number of first divisioners got doubled. Both the minister and the journalist tried to cheat the readers by hiding a very important fact. The number of not only the Muslim first divisioners have increased, but the performance in general has improved because unlike in the past the Bihar State Examination Board has now introduced the CBSE pattern of questions. Earlier the pattern of question was subjective, therefore, the percentage of those passing the examination and securing first division was much less.

It needs to be mentioned that 19.60 per cent of the Muslim students who passed in 2009 secured first division. The general percentage is 19.53 per cent. It also needs to be made clear that when the scheme was announced by the chief minister Nitish Kumar on November 11, 2007 it was none else but the alliance partner the BJP, which publicly issued statement opposing it. Even the finance department reportedly objected to it. And then too the argument was that the percentage of Muslims securing first division is slightly better in Bihar than the general, therefore, why should they be given incentive or reward. How was the percentage of Muslim first divisioners better than general in 2007 when the examination was held in March of the same year and the chief minister’s announcement came in November?

But the minister shamelessly went on to state in the Times of India story: “This sense of competition has yielded good results.” He further said that the scheme will motivate Muslim children to join schools.
The minister and journalist tried to take the readers and Muslim community for granted. The fact is that the state government did not even publish the form for applying for the reward money. Not to speak about this so-called reward for the first divisioners the state government has not published a single form for the four central government scholarships for minority students though the Centre created a separate fund for it. Not a single form of Post-Matric, Pre-Matric, Merit-cum-Means and Professional Courses scholarship was published in the last two years. The Centre announced these scholarship after the recommendation of the Sachar Committee report.

It is the organizations like Al-Khair Charitable Trust, Students Islamic Organization and Bihar Rabita Committee which jointly formed the Alpsankhiyak Chatwirti Morcha (Minority Scholarship Front), collected donation from the people and published and distributed thousands of forms to the students. In 2008 the central fund meant for the scholarship was allowed to lapse on March 31, 2008. This prompted the Morcha to stage a sit-in dharna near Patna’s busy Income Tax roundabout on April 23, 2008. It was only after this protest that the forms of the students submitted in the state minority welfare department were sent to the Centre. And even when the cheques came from the Centre to the state government it took months to be distributed among the beneficiary students.

This year too all the forms were published by the Morcha. The state government failed to renew the scholarship of the students of Professional Courses who got money last year. They are supposed to get scholarship till their course is completed. As there was no announcement, no advertisement and no notice from the state government about these scholarship––though the Centre has earmarked separate fund for publishing forms, giving newspaper ads and other related works––according to sources out of total quota for Bihar in Pre-Matric scholarship only one-fifth could apply this year. The last date of submission of forms was August 15 and they would now be sent to the Centre for the release of amount. Sources said that though Bihar’s quota was 1,60,000 the number of applications received is something between 30,000 and 32,000.

This is just a tip of an iceberg about scholarships. The real story is known to both the minister and journalist. But they are true clever by half and are befooling none, but themselves. Shahid Ali Khan, being a minister, is paid for being loyal to his chief minister, Nitish Kumar. But can a journalist like Faizan Ahmad go to such an extent. He is paid to publish the real story not to butter up the powers that be. But in the name of journalism this is happening now in Bihar.

(Saroor Ahmed can be contacted at soroorahmed@yahoo.com )


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