50 Million Scholarships for Minorities A ‘Cruel Joke,’ Says Former Minority Minister Rehman Khan

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Abdul Bari Masoud | Caravan Daily

NEW DELHI — The Union Minister for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, who is fond of making exaggerated statements which often border on ‘deception’, has once again boasted that his ministry will provide scholarships to 50 million students from the minority communities in the next five years.

However, his predecessor and senior Congress leader K Rehman Khan termed the announcement as nothing but a ‘cruel joke’ with the minorities saying, it requires more than 50 times increase (Rs 50,000 crores) in the budget to meet this target. Currently, the ministry’s total budget is Rs 4,700 crores while out of this Rs 2,456 crores are earmarked for all the seven types of scholarships, including pre-matric and post-matric scholarship, merit-cum-means scholarship, Maulana Azad National Fellowship, Interest Subsidy on Educational loans for Overseas Studies, and Free Coaching and Allied Schemes for minorities. Since its formation in 2006, the ministry has always been getting a paltry sum in the union budget.

While speaking with DD’s Urdu news on Eid day, Naqvi made this statement for the first time that the government will provide 50 million scholarships to minority students. It is a pity that most of the Urdu newspapers carried his words without giving second thought.  Some headlines bragged as “Modi sarkar kaa Muslim talbaa ko eid kaa tohfa” (Modi govt’s Eid gift for Muslim students).

Now again the minister boasted this at the 112th governing body and 65th general body meetings of Maulana Azad Education Foundation held here on Tuesday. “Several scholarships including pre-matric, post-matric and merit-cum-means will be provided to 5 crore students from minority communities in the next five years,” he said.

In the light of Sachar Committee’s recommendations, the minority ministry has chalked out as many as 16 welfare schemes and programmes under the heads of educational and economic empowerment as well as special needs and infrastructure development. Of these, scholarships and Multi-sectoral Development Programme ( MSDP) are considered as the flagship schemes of the ministry.

Naqvi also said that of all the scholarships, 50 per cent scholarships will be earmarked for girls and this includes more than 10 lakh Begum Hazrat Mahal girls scholarship in the next five years for Economically Weaker Sections.

Calling the announcement “bizarre and absurd”, former minister Rehman Khan wondered as from where the minister will get the fund to meet this incredible target while its budget is around Rs 3,800 to Rs 4,000 crores.

At present, out of the ministry’s total budget of Rs 4,700 crores, Rs 2,456 crore is allocated for providing more than one million scholarships to minority students across the country. The ministry launched the scholarship schemes in accordance with the Sachar committee recommendations.

Speaking with Caravan Daily, Rehman Khan said, “ It is good that they (ministry) want to give 5 crore scholarships, but for that, they first need to hike the budget 50 times more to achieve the goal.”

Khan, who had held many important positions in central and Karnataka governments, is considered to be an expert on Muslim affairs.

“During my tenure, we used to give around one million scholarships but we wanted to make it demand-driven so that benefits of the scheme reached every applicant,” he added.

If you start giving 10 million scholarship per year, it means that you have to earmark a budget for five years as scholarship cannot stop abruptly in the middle of education, he said. He also pointed out that the Maulana Azad Education Foundation’s scholarship cannot mix-up with the ministry’s scholarship scheme as it has been launched much before the ministry came into being.

Given the present government’s attitude toward minorities particularly Muslims, the announcement seems to be not feasible on two counts that are money and number of students. Getting money for this will be a big problem as this government had even done away with the Hajj subsidy last year without any plausible reason which accounted a meagre amount of Rs 200 crores to the state coffers.

Furthermore, from where the ministry will get the required number of beneficiaries as scholarship scheme is only for Economically Weaker Sections of minority communities — Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, and Parsis — which have a total population 260 million.

“Exclude 2 crores Jains and Parsis, as they have no poor in their ranks. While 60 per cent of Muslims may come under the BPL category but still finding 10 million beneficiaries among them will be a huge task,” Khan further added.

Multi-sectoral Development Programme (MSDP), which is another important scheme with an objective of developing assets for socio-economic and basic amenities in minority-concentrated areas, has almost been killed but the present minister has no time to look into this.

Rehman Khan said, “MSDP had been devised for constructing basic infrastructure like schools, roads, community centres, and health services among other basic facilities in minority-concentrated towns and blocks but the scheme seems to be dead.”

Another problem that is worth to be mentioned here is that the minority ministry’s budget is not fully utilized every year. Unlike SCs and STs budget, the minority budget has no provision of carrying forward the unutilized amount to next year.

Khan said that during his time also this had happened as many state governments did not cooperate in the implementation of the ministry’s schemes.

He also raised concern over the spiralling of Hajj expenditure after the abrupt end of Hajj fare subsidy by this government. Now this year Indian Hajj pilgrim has to cough up Rs 32,000 to Rs 50,000 more for Hajj expenditure.

“Now when the Hajj subsidy has gone, the only way to keep the Hajj expenditure under control is by establishing Hajj Corporation on lines of Malaysia’s Tabung Hajji,” said Khan, who had done all the preparatory works for the ambitious project during his tenure. Though the project was approved by then UPA government, the files of the same are still lying with the ministry.

It should be noted that a separate ministry for minority affairs was carved out of Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment on 29 January 2006  after the Justice Rajendra Committee presented its report revealing the abysmal condition of the Muslim community in the country but it failed to live up to its expectations.

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