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Minority Scholarship Scheme

While there would be jubilation at the runaway success of the scholarship scheme, MSDP calls for course-correction.

By Maqbool Ahmed Siraj

Now that the Eleventh Five-Year Plan (2007-2012) is reaching its conclusion, it appears that the Union Government’s Minority Scholarship scheme has achieved success far in excess of what it had originally targeted. The Scheme has come in for widespread appreciation for its effectiveness in retaining the Minority students in schools for longer years and ensuring inclusive growth. The scheme has proved to be a confidence-building measure as far as Muslims are concerned. However, the Multi-Sectoral Development Programme (MSDP) targeted to improve development infrastructure in 90 minority-concentrated districts has utterly failed to benefit the population it targeted. Its implementation has been suspended during the two terminal years in order to make course correction before it makes a passage to the Twelfth Five-Year Plan.
A review of the implementation of the various scholarship schemes suggests that while pre-matric scholarships schemes have been a runaway success, procedural bottlenecks exist in implementing the post-matric and merit-cum-means scholarships. There also appears to be an element of unwillingness on the part of the bureaucracy to encourage studies beyond matriculation by minority students. While the scholarship schemes met with enthusiastic response from most states, the BJP-ruled states have reported a variety of responses. The Gujarat government did not implement the scholarship scheme and had been strident in its opposition to it, terming it ‘divisive for the national unity’. The Madhya Pradesh Government forwarded only as many applications as were targeted under the Plan even though they received applications in greater numbers. The BJP government in Karnataka however demanded more scholarships than it was actually allotted and showed keen willingness to implement the scheme. The mixed record is not altogether pessimistic and only encourages the minorities to work with governments of all ideological persuasions.
It will be too hasty to conclude that the longer years in school or disbursement of entire financial allocations meant for scholarships will result in better educational attainments. But the scheme has certainly led to some peripheral benefits. The provision of bank accounts, access to financial institutions and Aadhar card has lent legitimacy of existence and a postal address for groups that suffered marginalization precisely due to hitherto non-recognition of their claim to official schemes.
Corrective Measures
Members of the working group for implementation of the Ministry’s programme set up by the Planning Commission opine that now the focus must be sharper on making the post-matric scholarships and the merit-cum-means scholarships more accessible to the needy students. In this regard, a few hurdles have been pointed out by the group members. First among them urges that the income certificate (insisted under the scheme) should be given a life of five years as obtaining a certificate is cumbersome. Secondly, several banks refuse opening of zero-balance students’ accounts. In this regard, the Reserve Bank of India has issued clear guidelines to all banks to comply with the directive. On the basis of documentary evidence of officers denying this facility, two bank officers have also been demoted. Wider publicity to such punitive measure will act as a deterrent. The working committee has also recommended that the students accounts in post offices, cooperative banks and private banks too could be included in the list of financial institutions where amounts of scholarships could be deposited electronically. It is also pointed out that the number of institutions for eligibility for merit-cum-means scholarship could be elongated from existing seventy to 300 as found in the SC/ST scholarships. Similarly, the amounts of scholarship for post-matric students needs to be enhanced from Rs. 3,000 to Rs. 10,000 as upmarket courses requires higher fee.
Appreciable Dynamism
The phenomenal growth of applications from five lakh in 2008-09 to an anticipated 75 lakh for 2012-13, i.e., 1,500% in five years is a pointer to the laudable dynamism in the community. This is certainly not the outcome of a spontaneous response. Several invisible men and women activists have activated mohalla and town committee which previously confined themselves to mere celebration of meelad or organizing the urs or qawwali or at best took pride in having sunnat e Ibrahimi camp. What is evident is that proactive measures for inclusion of communities would channellise their energy for development activities and divert it from traditional celebrations or identity-focussed activity which have outlived their utility. Mohammad Azam Khan, Member of the Working Group on Empowerment of Minorities, Ministry of Minority Affairs, who extensively travelled through the country, says a number such groups have popped up all across the states and hold the promise of sustaining the dynamism. Substantial credit also must be given to the efforts of Mr. S. M. Hilal, another member of the Working Group, Ms. Shabnam Hashmi, member of the Steering Committee and Mrs. Syeda Sayedain Hameed, Member, Planning Commission have been
As for MSDP, the working group has suggested that the financial allocation for development of infrastructure, improvement of schools, water supply and power lines in minority concentration areas should may be decided in terms of blocks with bulk of minority population rather than the districts which allows the officials to choose areas specifically bereft of minorities under the current arrangement.
Budget proposals for 12th plan ( 2012-17 )
The Planning Commission has received the proposals for the 12th Five-Year Plan. The scholarship scheme being the principal welfare scheme for the minorities, it is time the bodies representing the interest of the minorities bring about pressure to see that the proposals are accepted without any pruning. It is useful to be reminded that the scholarships are most direct help for the underprivileged group as financial benefits are directly transferred into the individual accounts, thanks to the technology- driven initiative. Here are the proposals before the Planning Commission:
Pre Matric ““Rs. 12,200 cr. to cater to average two crore applicants per annum
Post Matric””Rs. 1,3000 cr. to cater to average 38 lakh applicants per annum
Merit C Means””2,353 cr. to cater to average 1,20,000 applicants per annum
A Word for the Applicants and NGOs
The working group members opine that the mohalla or masjid committee working in the field need to be cautioned about exercising more accuracy in their useful work. A common complaint is about approval of scholarship but non-receipt of money. This happens mainly owing to the mistake in filling up the bank account number or a typing mistake in the name. Such candidates could contact the district welfare or minority officers for correction of details. Some applicants may assume that their applications have been rejected. In some cases the schools and college managements are not honest enough to admit the receipt of the scholarships. Again a simple check at the district headquarters would reveal the true picture. Here too the mohalla committees have a role. They could the list from schools and colleges and tally it with the records at the district headquarters.

Scholarship Schemes
Here is a year-wise break-up of financial allocation and the scholarships:

Pre-Matric Scholarships
Year Target Applications Granted Amount
(no.of std) Received (no. of Std) Disbursed
2008-09 3 lakh 7 lakh 5.12 lakh Rs. 62 cr.
2009-10 15 lakh 25 lakh 17.29 lakh Rs. 203 cr.
2010-11 20 lakh 75 lakh 44 lakh Rs. 446 cr.
2011-12 25 lakh 43 lakh 29 lakh Rs. 533 cr.(Fresh + Renewals)
Post-Matric Scholarships
Year Target Granted Amount
Year (no. of std) (no. of Std) Disbursed
2007-08 75,000 25,000 Rs. 9.6 cr.
2008-09 250,000 170,000 Rs. 70.6 cr.
2009-10 3 lakh 3,64 lakh Rs. 149 cr.
2010-11 4 lakh 5.25 lakh Rs. 390 cr.
2011-12 3.8 lakh 5.60 lakh Rs. 444 cr.(Fresh + Renewals)
Merit cum Means Scholarship
Year Target Granted Amount
(no. of std) (no. of Std) Disbursed
2007-08 20,000 17,200 Rs. 41 cr.
2008-09 35,000 26,000 Rs. Rs. 65 cr.
2009-10 42,000 36,000 Rs. 97.5 cr
2010-11 55,000 41,000 Rs. 109 cr.
2011-12 20,000 42,000 Rs. 124 cr. (Fresh+Renewals)
Projection for 2012-13
Catetory Target Amount Earmarked
Pre Matric 29 lakh Rs. 800 cr.
Post Matric 3.63 lakh Rs. 444 cr.
Merit cum means 60,000 Rs. 195 cr.