The government’s pre-matric scholarship to students of minority communities studying in classes 1 to 8 is being discontinued, and only those in Classes 9 and 10 will now be eligible for this scholarship by the Ministry of Minority Affairs from 2022-2023.
A notice posted on the National Scholarship Portal stated that this is being done in line with the pre-matric scholarship scheme of the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment and Ministry of Tribal Affairs.
“The Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009 makes it obligatory for the Government to provide free and compulsory elementary education (classes I to VIII) to each and every child. Accordingly, only students studying in classes IX and X are covered under the Pre-Matric Scholarship Scheme of the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment and Ministry of Tribal Affairs. Likewise from 2022-23, the coverage under the Pre Matric Scholarship Scheme of the Ministry of Minority Affairs shall also be for classes IX and X only,” the notice stated. “The Institute Nodal Officer (INO)/District Nodal Officer (DNO)/State Nodal Officer (SNO) may accordingly verify applications only for classes IX and X under the Pre Matric Scholarship Scheme of the Ministry of Minority Affairs,” it stated.
In a statement in Parliament in March this year, the then Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi had said that after 2014-15, 5.20 crore scholarships had been disbursed throughout the country to minority students, as against 3.03 crore scholarships before 2014-15.
Between 2014-15 and 2021-22, Naqvi said, a total of 3,36,11,677 pre-matric scholarships were granted to Muslim students, 53,13,905 to Christian students, 35,90,880 to Sikh students, 12,98,637 to Buddhist students and 4,58,665 to Jain students – at a cost of Rs 9057.08 crore to the Centre.
The total cost of all scholarships granted to minority students was Rs 15,154.70 crore for the same period.
The Ministry had allocated Rs 1,425 crore for pre-matric scholarships for 2022-23 to minority students.
The government’s announcement to restrict the pre-matric scholarship to only minority students of Classes IX and X drew a sharp response from the All India Muslim Personal Law Board and the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind.
AIMPLB executive member Dr SQR Ilyas said, “The various scholarships provided to the minority community, in particular to the Muslim community, pre-matric, post-matric, merit-cum-means scholarships, were instituted after the Sachar committee report that children from the Muslim community were some of the most educationally backward in the country, even lagging behind the children from Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.”
“Most of the dropouts in the Muslim community happen in Class V, so it is the Class V-VIII category of children who will be affected most by this withdrawal by the government,’’ he said.
Niaz Ahmad Farooqui, Secretary, Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, said, “This government can’t manage to pay teachers their due salaries, so what scholarships are they going to give?”.
Targeting the government, BSP leader Kunwar Danish Ali claimed that a new way had been “found to keep poor children away” from education by stopping the scholarship to minority students (of Classes I to VIII).
“Yes, don’t forget that educated children take the country forward irrespective of the community they belong to,” Ali said in a Twitter post.
Congress MP Randeep Singh Surjewala called it a “conspiracy” against the poor.