The illegal siphoning of the Centrally funded pre-Matric scholarship meant for poor minority students by an alleged nexus of middlemen, bank correspondents, officials and school staff investigated by The Indian Express, will now be probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation, sources have confirmed.
The Union Ministry of Minority Affairs which administers this scholarship – Rs 1400 crore last year nationally — has taken this decision “seeing the scope of the scam,” officials said.
Beginning October 31, The Indian Express’s investigative series highlighted how the scam siphoned off scholarships meant for schools across Ranchi, Dhanbad, Latehar, Ramgarh, Lohardaga in Jharkhand and Gaya, Darbhanga and Saharsa in Bihar.
Several students had their Aadhaar cards and fingerprints taken and scholarships were disbursed in their names but they received only a fraction of the amount — if at all anything. Scholarship meant for students who live in hostels were siphoned off in the name of schools that didn’t have a hostel. A school from Punjab and a Kendriya Vidyalaya from Assam had their names being fraudulently used to divert scholarship money in two districts.
The Indian Express found that the nexus stole IDs and passwords to access the National Scholarship Portal (NSP) to dupe students, set up fake beneficiaries while genuine poor minority students were left out.
This Pre-Matric Scholarship Scheme, launched in 2008 by the UPA Government, is meant to help students of minority communities, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis, Jains and Buddhists, from families with annual income below Rs 1 lakh.
From Explained | What is Jharkhand’s pre-matric scholarship scam?
To be eligible, students need to score at least 50 per cent in their class exams. Students from Class 1 to 5 receive Rs 1,000 per year and students of Class 6 to 10 receive Rs 10,700 a year if they are in a hostel or Rs 5,700 a year if they are day scholars. Most of the corruption, The Indian Express found, is related to these last two categories.
“The reason why Direct Benefit Transfer was brought in was to ensure transparency in the system. But now that leakages have to come to light through The Indian Express reports, they must be immediately and sternly addressed. The priority of this government was to ensure that minority students get an opportunity for education through these scholarships. The Ministry has given out close to 5 crore minority scholarships in the past six years and we believe that this has also helped many girl students from minority communities from dropping out,” said a top Ministry official.
Jharkhand scholarship scam | Middleman’s diary shows nexus– phone numbers, passwords
On November 2, the Ministry held its first meeting on the issue. Union Minister of Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi told The Indian Express that he had initiated a probe and his officials were in constant touch with their counterparts in Jharkhand. Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren, too, had ordered a probe and assured action.
On November 4, the Principal Secretary to Jharkhand CM, Rajiv Arun Ekka, wrote to the Welfare Secretary to make all files available for the Anti-Corruption Bureau. In Bihar, the Additional Chief Secretary, Minorities Welfare Department, Amir Subhani, said that FIRs will be registered.
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