SCHOOL STUDENTS from religious minorities are entitled to scholarships from the Ministry of Minority Affairs (MOMA) but not all of them are getting it. According to a government response to a Right to Information (RTI) query, thousands of students have not received the pre-matric scholarships since 2009. Of the 5,66,000 school students in the state whose scholarships had been approved for 2015-16, more than 58,000 (10%) have not received the fund.
In 2014-15, 1.81 lakh of the 7.17 lakh eligible students could not benefit from the school-level scholarship, a part of the Centre’s 15-point programme for minorities. In 2013-14, at least 61 per cent students did not get the benefits. According to the scheme, introduced to encourage more children from minority communities to attend schools, students whose parents’ annual income is less than Rs1 lakh are eligible for a maintenance allowance of Rs 1,000, admission fee of Rs 500, tuition fees of Rs 350, every month in a year. Only those with valid income certificates are approved. The amount is deposited to a zero balance bank account through Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) once a year.
However, activists said the implementation of the scheme in Maharashtra had not been proper. Zahid Shaikh, head of the Scholarship Cell at Students Islamic Organisation of India (Maharashtra South), said, “Not many students are aware of the scholarships.” He said parents could directly upload their bank account details to the National Scholarship Portal or the schools could update the bank details. “However, some schools assign the work to internet cafes which do not fill in the details properly.”
Following an RTI by activist Razaullah Khan, the Bombay High Court had in 2013 taken up a suo motu writ petition to address these issues but the court’s decisions were not been implemented, said Khan. The court had directed the government to deposit the scholarship amount before July 31- within a month of the new academic year. “The court’s decision is yet to be implemented. Last year’s applicants are yet to receive their scholarships, two months after the schools opened this year and the government is still accepting fresh applications,” said Khan.
Director of Minority and Adult Education Department Nandan Nangare said the applicants had provided incorrect bank details and hence the scholarship money had not been disbursed. “In cases where the bank account number and the Indian Financial System Code (IFSC) provided by applicants were incorrect, the scholarship amount has not been disbursed,” said Nangare. According to Nangare, sometimes the zero bank accounts lie unused for too long and are closed by banks.
The High Court had, in 2013, directed banks to allow students to open accounts with zero balance. However, Khan said opening the account was not always easy as only a few branches of Bank of Maharashtra allowed it. “Not many banks allow parents to open accounts at zero balance,” said Khan, school principal from Latur and district secretary of Movement for Peace and Justice.