A state-run residential school for tribals in Maharashtra has been found to have 50 “bogus” students on its roll amid the government’s move to tighten norms for providing grant to such institutes and also their overall administration. The alleged rape of a minor girl at a government-aided tribal school (called ‘ashram shalas’) in Buldhana district early last month led the government to order an inquiry into the living conditions of students in all the 1,075 such institutes in the state. Minister for Agriculture Pandurang Phundkar, who is also Buldhana district guardian minister, said the government has ordered an inquiry into all the ashram schools.
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The probe, which is still underway, revealed rampant corruption and misappropriation of government grants in administration of these schools, an official said. Taking note of the mismanagement, the government has now decided to make quoting Aadhaar card number of adivasi school children mandatory for their registration. “Henceforth, the ashram schools will not get 75 per cent of the government grant unless they have 100 per cent Aadhaar card-based enrolment of students,” said the official from Tribal Affairs Department. The state cabinet earlier this week approved a proposal to directly deposit government grants to bank accounts of beneficiaries instead of giving them items of use.
An ashram school in Khamgaon, Buldhana district, was found to have 50 “bogus” students. “Of these, there is no trace of 30, while the remaining 20 were actually studying in other ashram schools,” the official said. “Fictitious enrolment was done with an eye to pocket the Rs 900 per month grant given to each of the tribal children studying in these schools. Moreover, there is a restriction of 30 students per class. If there is even one more student than the prescribed limit the government grant is denied,” he said.
The official said the state each year allocates Rs 761 crore for government-aided ashram schools and Rs 526 crore for such private unaided institutes. After the rape case at the Buldhana school came to light, 11 people, including members of the management, were arrested and the institute was shutdown. The 400-odd students of the school are being accommodated in nearby ashram schools, the official said. At present there are 546 aided and 529 government-run ashram schools under the jurisdiction of Tribal Development Department. There are 2.53 lakh students in aided and another 1.93 lakh pupils in government-run ashram schools.