For the first time in the country's history, a block allocation of Tk 200 crore has been proposed for the maintenance of temples and holy places of the Hindu community.
Finance Minister AMA Muhith made the proposal while presenting budget for the 2016-17 fiscal year yesterday.
The allocation came amid the spate of attacks on the minority communities in different parts of the country in recent times. Besides, there are allegations that the government was discriminating against minorities while allocating budget to the religious affairs ministry.
Minority leaders welcomed the government's move. They also urged the government to allocate similar funds to other minority communities.
“The state of religious harmony existing in Bangladesh is a matter of pride,” Muhith said.
There are around 24,000 temples in the country. Of them, 5,500 temples run child education programmes, and “their state of maintenance is comparatively better due to that”, he said, adding that the rest require repairs and maintenance.
With the help of a “meagre income” of the Hindu Welfare Trust, some degree of maintenance work for other temples is being carried out, the finance minister said.
Besides, there is a need for extending physical infrastructural facilities of Langalbandh of Narayanganj, a holy place for Hindu pilgrims at home and abroad, he added.
“After taking everything into consideration, I propose to allocate a lump sum of Tk 200 crore for these purposes,” Muhith said.
Rana Dasgupta, general secretary of Bangladesh Hindu Buddha Christian Oikya Parishad, said: “This is a positive move. We thank the prime minister and finance minister for the allocation.”
He, however, said the government should end the discrimination against minorities when it comes to allocating budget to the religious affairs ministry.
At a press conference on May 24, the parishad demanded that at least Tk 2,000 crore be allocated in the budget for the next fiscal year for the development and welfare of the minority communities.
In the 2015-2016 fiscal year, Tk 243.35 crore was allocated for Bangladesh Islamic Foundation, while Hindu Religious Welfare Trust got Tk 70 lakh, Buddhist Religious Welfare Trust Tk 80 lakh and Christian Religious Welfare Trust got Tk 10 lakh, it said.
Rana said that although the finance minister talked about religious harmony in Bangladesh, a vested quarter, out of personal and political interests, was carrying out attacks on minorities.
“The government must work to stop such attacks and regain confidence of the minorities,” Rana said, adding that such allocations should have been given to Buddhist and Christian communities as well.
Kajal Debnath, an adviser to Bangladesh Puja Udjapan Parishad, said the community people were lagging behind due to different forms of discrimination and that the government should continue such allocations.
“Attacks on the minority communities are going on and I believe the government would not consider Tk 200 allocation as a consolation for those attacks,” said Kajal, also the presidium member of the parishad.
Ten people from religious minorities were killed, 366 injured and eight women were raped in the country in the first three months of this year, said a report of Oikya Parishad. Some 24 people were killed, 25 women raped and 1,562 families were affected in 262 incidents of minority persecution in the country last year, according to the parishad.