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Sunday, April 11, 2021

Kerala minority scholarships: Ratio, rationale

While the UDF has not taken any stand, the IUML has asked for a white paper on the distribution of minority scholarships.

Written by Shaju Philip | Thiruvananthapuram |
Updated: March 26, 2021 7:46:34 am
Kerala minority scholarships, Kerala Assembly Elections 2021, Kerala scholarships, Kerala minority vote share, kerala BJP, pinarayi vijayan, Indian ExpressBJP leaders with Archbishop of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church. (PTI)

As both the LDF and BJP woo the Christian community, which has traditionally voted for the UDF, one of the issues being raised is “discrimination” in distribution of minority student scholarships by the Kerala Directorate of Minority Welfare. The Catholics, who comprise the dominant Christian group, have also taken up the matter, as has the BJP, in its attacks on the UDF for being “pro-Muslim”.

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The scholarships

The Directorate offers eight types of student scholarships, amounting to around Rs 14 crore a year. These scholarships stem from the recommendations of the Sachar Committee set up by the UPA government to address backwardness among Muslim community. In 2007, the then Kerala LDF government formed a panel headed by CPM veteran Paloli Muhammed Kutty to make suggestions regarding the report.

The Paloli report

Largely relying on a 2001 National Sample Survey report, the Paloli committee said the Muslim community was substantially behind its Christian counterpart in college enrolment, as well as other communities in socio- economic spheres. Unemploym- ent was found to be 58.2% among Muslims, compared to 37.9% in Christians and 40.2% in Hindus. Based on the findings, the LDF government in 2008 decided on scholarships for Muslims.

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The share

In 2011, the government decided that 20% of these scholarships (initially meant for only Muslims) would be given to Latin Christians (mainly the fishermen community in Kerala) and converted Christians. The Christian community is now demanding that instead of this 80:20 ratio, scholarships should be distributed on the basis of the population size (Muslims comprise 26% and Christians 18% of the population).

The politics

The BJP was the first to take sides on the issue, by supporting the demand for scholarships factoring in population size. During its recent Vijay Yatra, the party constantly talked of “love jihad” and “the IUML’s dominance of the UDF”.

Quiet on the issue of minority scholarship, LDF has also joined the refrain that the Congress is “controlled” by the IUML. Meanwhile, the LDF recently appointed a panel headed by retired High Court chief justice J B Koshi to study socio-economic condition of Christians in Kerala.

While the UDF has not taken any stand, the IUML has asked for a white paper on the distribution of minority scholarships.

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