In a written reply to a question by Congress MP from Thrissur, T. N. Prathapan, regarding the frequency of disbursement of Maulana Azad National Fellowship (MANF) to students, Minority Affairs Minister Smriti Irani on Thursday said the funds were disbursed to the beneficiaries on a monthly basis.
The MP had asked that what is the frequency of fund distribution under the MANF Scheme; and the reasons for not distributing the fellowship/ scholarship funds for its beneficiaries on a monthly basis.
Scholars from the minority community termed the response ‘utter lie’ as they await their fellowship amount for seven months now. The beneficiaries also maintained that the delay and lags in the fellowship grants are not new but happening since past couple of years.
Sharukh Khan, an MANF scholar from the English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad took to Twitter to react to the Minister’s response.
“Respected authority….MANF candidates have not received the fellowship for the last 6 months or so. Under such circumstances, these statements made us feel more dejected. It is like rubbing salt on our wounds,” he said.
Kanwalpreet Kaur (35), another MANF fellow from Mumbai, said, “Madam Smriti Irani ji, unfortunately we are not those lucky research scholars who are getting the MANF grants every month. I am awaiting this miracle and blessing of monthly stipend from past 7 months.”
Students have demanded immediate disbursal of fellowships for MANF candidates and termed the ‘falsification’ humiliating.
Meanwhile, responding to another question from the MP who sought an answer to whether the government proposes to repeal its decision to discontinue the MANF Scheme, Ms. Irani said the Ministry had been implementing the MANF on the lines of the JRF Scheme of the UGC and the CSIR.
Overlap of schemes
“The UGC and CSIR Fellowship Schemes are open for candidates of all social categories and communities, including minorities. Further, students from minority communities are also covered under National Fellowship Schemes for Scheduled Castes and OBCs implemented by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment,” the Minister said. She said that in view of the overlap among the aforesaid schemes and possibilities of misuse and duplication, it had been decided to discontinue the MANF Scheme from 2022-23 onwards.
“The existing MANF Fellows will continue to receive Fellowships till the end of their respective tenure, subject to compliance with the extant guidelines,” Ms. Irani said.
Replying to a question on the number of fellowships distributed by the government to the existing beneficiaries during the last five years and the current year, the Minister said that during 2017-18 to 2021-22, 4,689 fresh fellowships, besides renewal fellowships, were distributed to the scholars of minority communities under the MANF. She added that the beneficiaries were yet to be finalised against results of the UGC/CSIR NET-JRF December 2021 examinations.