The Centre has decided to discontinue the Maulana Azad National Fellowship (MANF), a scholarship for students from minority communities that was launched during the UPA regime as part of implementing the Sachar Committee recommendations, from this academic year.
Union Minority Affairs Minister Smriti Irani told Lok Sabha here on Thursday that the decision was made since MANF overlaps with various other schemes.
“Since the MANF scheme overlaps with various other fellowship schemes for higher education implemented by the government and with minority students already covered under such schemes, the government has decided to discontinue the MANF scheme from 2022-23,” Ms. Irani said.
She added that as per the data provided by the University Grants Commission (UGC), which had implemented the scheme, about 6,722 candidates were selected under it between 2014-15 and 2021-22 and fellowships to the tune of ₹738.85 crore were distributed during the same period.
Earlier, The Hindu had reported that research scholars had been facing several months’ delay in availing the fellowship. Students, too, had raised doubts over the continuation of the scheme.
Ms. Irani said in a reply to a question by Congress MP T.N. Prathapan that all such schemes, except MANF, are open for candidates of all communities including minorities but the data of fellowship distributed among minority students is captured only under the MANF scheme.
Mr. Prathapan said he will raise the issue of stopping MANF in Parliament. “This is injustice. A number of researchers will lose their chance to study further by this step,” he said.
Meanwhile, National Students Union’s Jamia Millia Islamia president N.S. Abdul Hameed said the issue will affect a number of minority students who are not considered as OBC.
“The scholarships for minorities, OBCs, Dalits and Adivasis used to get overlapped as the applicants may be from same social or religious backgrounds. We have been demanding the Centre to correct the anomalies. Instead of correcting the anomalies, they stopped the scholarship altogether. This will impact a number of Muslim, Sikh and Christian students who are not considered as OBCs in various States,” Mr. Hameed said.