Maharashtra Minister for Social Justice Rajkumar Badole and the secretary of his department, Dinesh Waghmare, a senior IAS officer, have found themselves embroiled in a controversy after reports that their children managed to secure scholarships granted by the department they head.
Badole’s 29-year-old daughter Shruti Badole and Waghmare’s son Antariksh are among the 35 students from among the Scheduled Caste and Neo Buddhists who were granted a scholarship to study abroad by the government on Monday.
Badole’s daughter had got a scholarship for a period of three years to pursue her PhD in the United Kingdom at the University of Manchester while Waghmare’s son will be undertaking a two-year course in the Pennsylvania State University for his Masters. The scheme is being run by the Maharashtra Government since 2003 and was started for students from the Scheduled Castes whose weak financial condition impedes their ability to pursue higher education abroad. The scheme provides funding for those students who manage to secure admission in the top 300 colleges according to the QS World University Rankings. The ranking system identifies the world’s strongest universities in 46 individual subject areas.
Under the government scheme, students who have managed to get admission to these universities can apply for the scholarship. The scholarship takes care of the complete tuition fees of a student and also provides GBP (British pound sterling) 10,000 to each student every year as allowance and miscellaneous expenses.
The scheme also states that only those families, which have an income of less than Rs 6 lakh can apply. However, for students who have got admission to the top 100 QS-ranked universities, there is no income cap.
“This shows how two-faced the BJP is. At one end, the government wants people to give up gas subsidies. The state government is putting unrealistic terms and conditions while allowing loan waiver to farmers, while at the other end, we have ministers who are granting scholarships
to their own kin,” the Congress spokesperson, Sachin Sawant, said.
The minister, however, defended the state government’s decision to grant scholarship to his daughter saying he had recused himself from the entire process and had informed the chief minister.
“I was not part of the selection process. I had already informed the CM that my daughter was applying for the scholarship and had recused myself. The CM had set up a separate committee under the chief secretary to select the beneficiaries and the committee took the decision. My daughter has been a student of IIT Chennai and has a right to apply for
the scholarship,” Rajkumar Badole said.
The scheme initially had an income cap of Rs 2.5 lakh, which was progressively raised to Rs 6 lakh in 2015.
“Those who have not got the benefit of the scheme have been alleging that the norms were changed to accommodate these children. However, the cap was raised to 6 lakh in 2015 itself. Moreover, for all those who got admission to the top 100 QS-ranked universities, the income limit was waived. The
income limit of Rs 6 lakh was only for those who got admission in universities that were ranked between 101 to 300,” the Social Justice Department Secretary, Dinesh Waghmare, said.
While Badole’s daughter got admission to the 29th QS ranked university, Waghmare’s son got admission to the 95th ranked university.