GUWAHATI: The Assam Assembly on Wednesday passed a Bill to convert all state-run madrasas into regular schools amidst a walkout by the Opposition.
Opposition Congress and All India United Democratic Front had sought the Bill to be sent to the Assembly’s Select Committee for a proper discussion on it. However, Speaker Hitendra Nath Goswami rejected the demand and placed the Bill for a voice vote. Later, it was passed.
The members of the state’s ruling coalition such as BJP, Asom Gana Parishad and Bodoland People’s Front voted in its favour.
Education Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said the Assam Repealing Bill, 2020 would repeal the Assam Madrassa Education (Provincialization) Act, 1995 and the Assam Madrassa Education (Provincialization of Services of Employees and Re-Organisation of Madrassa Educational Institutions) Act, 2018.
He said the madrasa institutes would now be converted into upper primary, high and higher secondary schools with no change of status and pay, allowances and service conditions of their teaching and non-teaching staff.
Assam has 189 state-run high madrasas and madrasa higher secondary schools that are run under the Board of Secondary Education, Assam and the Assam Higher Secondary Education Council. There are also 542 state-run pre-senior, senior and title madrasas and Arabic colleges which are run by the State Madrasa Education Board.
The 189 high madrassas are like any other high schools with subjects such as mathematics, science, English etc. But they also have a subject on theology which carries 50 marks. The government decided to drop this subject and remove the word “madrasa” from the institutes.
Sarma said 97 state-run Sanskrit tolls (Sanskrit-learning centres) would also be converted into study centres, research centres and institutions to study certificate/diploma/degree courses under the Kumar Bhaskar Varma Sanskrit and Ancient Studies University.
Madrasa education in Assam was introduced in 1915. The state government annually spends Rs 260 crore on the state-run madrasas and Sanskrit “tols”. In February this year, the government had said: “Religious teachings cannot be imparted with government funds in a secular country”.
After the state cabinet recently approved the proposal to turn the state-run madrasas into general schools, Sarma had said, “We’ve taken a historical decision to secularise the state’s education system.”
When Bill’s introduction in the House two days ago triggered a protest from the Opposition, Sarma had said the government was not taking any steps to close down or regulate the private madrasas.