The Union Government’s ambitious scheme for providing scholarships to students belonging to minority communities may not achieve its objectives in Rajasthan for the second year in a row because of shrinking time-frame, lack of publicity and alleged bureaucratic indifference.
Against the revised targets allotted for the pre-matriculation, post-matriculation and merit-cum-means scholarships of the Union Minority Affairs Ministry during 2009-10 in the desert State, only 25 per cent of the deserving students submitted their applications till August 15, which was fixed as the last date without any broad-based consultation.
Notwithstanding the release of a negligible number of scholarships during the previous year, the State Government has failed to put in place an effective monitoring mechanism to ensure that the benefits of scholarships reach the targeted groups. There is no nodal agency in the State even for distribution of application forms.
The State unit of the All India Milli Council has taken up the issue with the Centre and demanded that the State Government – which has been assigned the task of processing the applications – be instructed to extend the last date by at least two months and launch an awareness drive to apprise the minority communities of the scheme’s salient features.
“The entire purpose of the scheme introduced after the tabling of the Rajinder Sachar Committee’s report will be defeated if its implementation is not ensured at the ground level. The deserving children will be deprived of the benefit in the limited time-frame,” Milli Council State general secretary Abdul Qayoom Akhtar told The Hindu here.
Following a four-fold increase in the allocation of targets to the State, the number of scholarships sanctioned to Rajasthan during 2009-10 is 66,110 for pre-matric students against 18,150 in 2008-09, and 21,035 for post-matric students against 5,259 in 2008-09. The allotment for merit-cum-means scholarships, which totalled 882 in 2008-09, is yet to be issued for the current year.
The State Government received about Rs.6 crore from the Centre for disbursement under the scheme during 2008-09, while it was supposed to contribute 25 per cent of the amount in the pre-matric category alone. About 5.50 lakh Muslim and other minority students pursuing education in the State-run and private institutions, including madrasas applied for scholarship.
Mr. Akhtar pointed out that the previous BJP regime in the State did not evince any interest in executing the scheme and it was left to the Congress – which was elected to power in Rajasthan towards the end of the financial year – to take some action to release the funds. Despite extending the last date till February 28 this year, very few scholarships could be issued.
During the current financial year the application forms were not available till the first week of this month. The State Government fixed the last date for submission of applications as August 15, which was a national holiday, while there was confusion about the Directorate of Education or the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment processing the applications.
Mr. Akhtar said bureaucratic apathy, communal mind-set of the ground level staff and lack of awareness among the minority communities were holding back the release of scholarships in the State: “A major portion of this year’s allocation will remain unutilised with only 25 per cent of the deserving students applying so far.”
In a memorandum submitted to Union Minister of State for Minority Affairs Salman Khursheed, the Milli Council has demanded that besides extension of time for applying, the number of scholarships sanctioned for Rajasthan be enhanced to 2 lakh in view of the minorities’ backwardness here. This would also cover the gap of lesser allotment and release during 2008-09.
Mr. Akhtar – a leading tax consultant here in Jaipur – also sought the Union Ministry’s intervention for revision of the scheme’s norms to bring it on par with the scholarships for students belonging to Scheduled Castes and Tribes, which are fully Centrally-sponsored and available throughout the year.