Union Minister of Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said Monday that the Central Government has “initiated an investigation” into the disbursal of scholarships for pre-Matric minority students in Jharkhand after an investigation by The Indian Express revealed how the money was being illegally diverted by a nexus of middlemen, bank and school staff, and state employees.
Speaking to The Indian Express after chairing a high-level meeting to discuss the issue, Naqvi said: “We have initiated an investigation into the matter and are in constant touch with the state government.”
Jharkhand scholarship scam| Fraud went on unchecked even as red flags were waved in Centre and state
Naqvi said the state government has been asked to verify the findings of The Indian Express investigation and “get back to us as soon as possible”. “Once this is done, we will have a clearer picture,’’ he said.
The Indian Express found that the scholarships, which are disbursed from funds sanctioned by the Union Ministry of Minority Affairs, are being distributed to students and fake beneficiaries in Jharkhand by middlemen who pocket a share of the money.
On Sunday, reacting to the findings, Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren ordered a probe into the “big scam’’ and assured action.
“We had put a number of safeguards to ensure that the process is transparent and that such incidents don’t occur, including a system of Direct Benefit Transfer, stringent verification of applications, scholarships through the National Scholarship Portal as well as linking of Aadhaar cards to these applications. But it seems some people at a very local level have found a means to get around this,” Naqvi said.
“The process of verification is carried out by the state. For the 2019-2020 scholarship disbursal, the Ministry had sent back 26,000 applications from Jharkhand on grounds that they were suspicious. The state government reverified the applications and sent us back 20 applications,’’ Naqvi said.
Senior officials in the Ministry said the scholarship, in its present form, is operational only till 2021. The Ministry is in the process of re-evaluating the scheme, which was launched in 2008, and is likely to consider restructuring of finances, eligibility norms and procedure, officials said.
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