Modi govt denies scholarships

Modi govt denies scholarships to minority students

The 2010-2011 final examinations are almost over and the admission process for the new academic year is in full swing. But the ambitious Muslim students who want to pursue higher studies are down in the dumps.

Six years have passed since the Central government under a Prime Minister’s scheme started offering pre-matriculation scholarships every year to hundreds boys and girls of minority communities in all states.

In view of the five-million population of Muslims in Gujarat, some 60,000 students are eligible for these scholarships but the land of the Mahatma is the only state which has steadfastly refused to implement the scheme, thus depriving thousands of school-children of the financial aid.

According to Gyasuddin Shaikh, a local Congress legislator, the Narendra Modi government does not want to chip in with its share of just 25 per cent of the total amount of the scholarships that comes to merely Rs. 12.5 million annually.

No wonder, even as Modi continued to make desperate attempts to woo Muslim leaders in Gujarat ahead of next year’s assembly elections, the Students Islamic Organisation of India (SIO) hurriedly called a meeting of Muslim leaders to discuss the injustice being done to minority students.

Shaikh, who participated in the debate, also expressed the lack of clarity in procedures governing implementation of various scholarship schemes, adding that it was time the quota for Muslim, Christian, Parsi and Sikh beneficiaries was increased substantially.

The speakers, who also included prominent social activists like Kalim Ansari (Gujarat SIO chief), Shafi Madni (Gujarat Jamaat-e-Islami chief) and Kasam Vora (CEO, Gujarat Sarvajanik Education Society), rightly called for a single-window clearance for scholarship applications from minorities and suggested setting up of a nodal agency for implementation of minority welfare schemes which can report directly to the Centre.

Muslim leaders have now decided to publish a scholarship guide and set up help centres in all the districts in Gujarat for the benefit of the student fraternity. But the Central government should also be equally blamed for not compelling the Modi regime to discharge its duty.

As Madni said, New Delhi was well aware of the ‘ill-intentions of the state administration which had failed to channelise the Centre’s 75 per cent share, adding that scholarships worth Rs100 million lapsed every year.

Come May 1, the SIO will launch an awareness campaign among the masses and also mobilise resources to influence the government machinery and the political parties for sincere implementation of the schemes intended for the minorities.

However, with assembly polls nearing, reliable government officials say Modi, who has been meeting more and more Muslim leaders of late, is contemplating reconsidering his earlier decision not to provide the pre-matriculation scholarships to minority students.

According to them, Modi had taken a particular view three years ago at the National Development Council meeting in Delhi in December 2007, where he declared that giving scholarships to minority students was discriminatory against other backward sections of society.

A BJP leader said Modi wanted to change his anti-minority image but a shrewd strategist that he was, he wanted some assurance from minority leaders to support him and would announce his decision ‘at an opportune time’. Currently only those minority students get scholarship whose families earn less than Rs11,000 a year, a criterion which will make no student eligible.

Courtesy: Khaleej Times


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