Kerala Cabinet alters minority students scholarship ratio

The State government has altered the proportion of ‘merit-cum-means’ scholarships for needy and educationally disadvantaged minority community students.

As per the revised ratio, the minority scholarship quota for Christians is 18.38%, Muslims (26.56%), Buddhists (0.01%), Jains (0.01) and Sikhs (0.01%). The Cabinet, which met here on Thursday, said it had based the modification on the 2011 census.

Moreover, the High Court had in February struck down the 80:20 ratio for minority students. It had found the original allocation legally unsustainable and favouring a particular community.

The HC had directed the State government to issue orders to rectify the anomaly and bestow scholarship to students from notified minority communities equally and as per the latest population census endorsed by the State Minority Commission.

Heated debate

The HC order had precipitated a heated socio-political debate in the State in the run-up to the 2021 Assembly elections in April.

Muslim organisations, representing a crucial demographic in the State (58.67% of the minority population), feared that the stricture would severely disadvantage Muslim students and rob them of their educational rights. They wanted the government to appeal the decision.

In contrast, Christian organisations, claiming to represent 40.6% of the minority population, welcomed the HC order. They claimed that the court had ended the heavily pro-Muslim bias in distributing the merit scholarship meant to give a leg-up in life to needy students from all minority communities.

The previous LDF government had set up an expert committee to study the issue. The second LDF Cabinet has now attempted to balance the interests of Muslim and Christian communities within the legal framework of the HC order. The new decision was reportedly the outcome of hectic parleys in the LDF.

Political quagmire

The Indian National League (INL) was initially opposed to reducing the Muslim student scholarship quota. It had argued that the minority scholarships exclusively targetted the educational empowerment of backward Muslim students. However, the 2011 LDF government had "erroneously extended it to other communities, turning the issue into a legal and political quagmire.

The Kerala Congress (M), an LDF partner with a sizeable Christian constituency, was initially not on the same page as the INL. However, both partners had reportedly agreed to the amended minority scholarship ratio.

The Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) of the UDF has stoutly opposed the Cabinet decision. The Kerala Congress (Joseph), another UDF partner, is yet to reveal its mind on the issue.

The government said the current allocation would not infringe on the education reservation benefits enjoyed by other communities.

The merit scholarships will cost the government ₹23.51 crore. The government has allocated ₹6.2 crore additionally to meet the expense.

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Printable version | Sep 21, 2021 8:09:50 PM |

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