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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Disturbed by ‘misappropriation’ in minority scholarship schemes, says House panel

The committee also recommended that the ministry counsel state governments to try to reach out to a sample size of beneficiary minority students directly to ascertain that they are not being duped.

Written by Abhishek Angad | Sahibganj |
Updated: March 18, 2021 5:31:14 am
The report has come amid an ongoing investigation by the CBI and Vigilance Bureau of Jharkhand after The Indian Express in a series of reports last November unearthed pre-matric scholarship scam duping minorities.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Social Justice and Empowerment, in its report tabled Tuesday, said it is “quite disturbed” by cases reported on the “alleged misappropriation” of funds under three scholarship schemes meant for children from “underprivileged minorities” category. The report has assessed demands for grants for 2021-22 pertaining to the Ministry of Minority Affairs.

The committee also recommended that the ministry counsel state governments to try to reach out to a sample size of beneficiary minority students directly to ascertain that they are not being duped.

The report has come amid an ongoing investigation by the CBI and Vigilance Bureau of Jharkhand after The Indian Express in a series of reports last November unearthed pre-matric scholarship scam duping minorities.

The Ministry of Minority Affairs transfers money for three scholarship schemes namely Pre-matric, Post-matric and Merit-cum-Means through Direct Benefit Transfer to six centrally notified religious minority communities.

On various types of fraud surrounding the disbursal, the committee said in its report that in one state, after enquiry, the fraud happened due to passwords leak by certain vested interests as well as other loopholes. “Taking advantage of illiteracy or lack of awareness among parents and children of minorities is also exploited by such elements. While the Ministry representatives have always been claiming that the system is fail-safe…(and) cash transfers happening through DBT and similar measures — which are definitely the need of the hour — it is disconcerting for the Committee to observe that such instances of corruption happened,” the report said.

The report said “however minuscule” the proportion of misappropriation, it must have deprived genuine beneficiaries and may have led to some children dropping out for being unable to afford the school fees and other expenses.

“During their evidence, the Ministry representatives informed the Committee about further safety measures under their consideration, for instance, preserving the files of scholarship-holder students for a period of 5 years, creation of an Aadhaar vault in coordination with MeITY… While the Committee desires the Ministry to plug all identified loopholes in the system…Ministry should also counsel the State Governments to try to reach out to a sample size of beneficiary minority students directly to ascertain that they are not being duped in the pretext of Government scholarships, and that they are actually in receipt, through DBT, of the full amount of the entitled scholarship money for the term, as approved against their names in the Portal,” the report said.

The committee added that the banks should ensure that the accounts of students do not get closed due to non-activity. “Because some evaluation studies have shown that the scholarship money gets reverted also due to accounts being inactive/closed…The Committee reiterates that fraudulent activity by unscrupulous elements in schools, banks, NGOs… who find ways to circumvent the processes for their personal gains, must be stopped,” the report said.

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