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2.26 lakh Gujarat minority students fail to get premartic scholarship: Paucity of funds?

By Our Representative
Mystery surrounds a whopping 2.26 lakh pre-matric applications for minority scholarship for the year 2014-15, “missing” from the list of about 5.87 lakh pleas made for those studying in classes 1 to 10. In a right to information (RTI) reply, the Gujarat government has “revealed” that of the 5,66,823 applications it forwarded to the Government of India, 3,35,561 applications were “accepted”, and another 5,176 applications were “rejected”.
Wondering what has happened to the balance numbers, a Khambhat-based activist Janisar Shaikh, who has been tracing minority scholarships issue in Gujarat for the past several years, says, “There is little information of the 2,26,086 applicants, whose names do not appear either in either of the two lists.” Shaikh, who is a right to education (RTE) campaigner, is attached with Ahmedabad-based NGO Janvikas.
A district-wise list, forwarded by the director, developing caste welfare department, Gujarat government, to Shaikh under the RTI plea, suggests that, from Ahmedabad, a more than 1 lakh applications were made for receiving premartic minority scholarship. Of these, 342 were rejected, and 53,094 approved. There is no information on what has happened to the rest.
The other big city from where a large number of applications were forwarded is Surat. Of the 75,720 applications, 44,572 were approved, 802 applications were rejected, and there is no information of the applications which were neither approved nor rejected. Similarly, from Vadodara, 42,875 applications were sent. Of these, only 130 were rejected, and 27,485 approved.
Finding this strange, Shaikh wrote to the authorities to know why this. In his reply, NJ Gurung, joint director, developing castes welfare department, Gujarat government, said, an “additional fresh proposal for 2,26,086 students under prematric scholarship scheme” was forwarded to the Ministry of Minority Affairs, Government of India, on November 11, 2014.
But, added Gurung, because this was “an additional fresh proposal”, the Ministry of Minority Affairs did not sanction it. “The Ministry has informed us that they have already sanctioned proposal as per the physical target set for the financial year 2014-15 for fresh scholarship. So, an additional fresh proposal under prematric scheme cannot be sanctioned due to paucity of funds”, he added.
The reply, significantly, comes amidst strong view in Government of India’s corridors of power to drastically reduce the scope of the scholarship by giving it only to the below poverty line minorities.
The scholarship scheme began being implemented in the country in 2006, following the Prime Minister’s 15-point programme for alleviating the minorities’ plight. The Gujarat government refused to implement it till February 2013, when the Gujarat High Court ordered in its favour. Delivering the judgment, Justices V M Sahai, DH Vaghela and Akil Kureshi called it an “affirmative action” and “not discriminatory” in nature.
According to Shaikh, now that 2.26 lakh students did not receive scholarship in the year 2014-15 for no fault of theirs, “they must receive it”. Each child is to be paid at least Rs 1,000 per annum, including the admission fee, tuition fee and hostel fee. “Among the private schools, the amount may go up to Rs 10,000. As an obligation, each school is supposed to fill up and submit the form for scholarship”, Shaikh said.
Predicting that in 2015-16, things are likely to be even more difficult, as for classes 9 and 10 only online applications are being accepted, Shaikh said, “Schools have still not received physical application forms for classes 1 to 8. Also, the Gujarat government order, specifying all the details of the scholarship, has not yet been sent to schools.”
Meanwhile, in several of the districts, where Janvikas is active, a campaign has been launched to send postcards to Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel and Union minister for minority affairs Najma Heptulla protesting against large-scale unofficial rejections. “A team of activists led by Mir Khan has sent about 2,000 postcards from Himatnagar twon in Sabarkantha district alone”, said Shaikh, adding, “A similar campaign has been launched in Banaskantha, Panchmahals and other districts.”

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