Is the Government doing enough for Minority Rights? - Part II

Is the Government doing enough for Minority Rights? - Part II

In this second of the series of four articles, we will delve deeper into one of the components from the list of development indicators- education. We will analyse the schemes that are in place to provide education support to the minorities and evaluate if the government has done enough to make sure that the policies reach the maximum number of people from the community.

 

Under education support, let us look at five major schemes that MoMA has in place:

1. Pre-Matric Scholarship (upto Class X)

2. Post-Matric Scholarship (upto PhD)

3. Merit-cum-Means Scholarship for Professional and Technical Courses (every year a fixed number of new scholarships are given out – 60,000 – apart from renewal)

4. Maulana Azad National Fellowship (for M.Phil and PhD only; fixed number of new Fellowships to be given out every year – 756 – apart from renewal)

5. Free Coaching and Allied Schemes (coaching for competitive examinations for higher education and employment, as well as specified training for industry-specific skills)

 

The scheme-wise allocation (in crores) made for all the schemes are as follows:

The scholarship schemes are designed in a manner that targets for fresh scholarship are set every year apart from renewal of existing scholarships. Each scholarship requires students securing minimum 50 % marks in the examinations every year, apart from an annual family income criterion. The Fellowship doesn’t have an income criterion. The Free Coaching Scheme has a minimum percentage and family income criterion, but no specific number of students to be targeted.

 

It is very intriguing to learn that the family income criterion gradually increases from maximum ₹1 lakh per annum in case of pre-matric scholarship, to ₹2 lakh per annum in case of post matric scholarship, to ₹2.5 lakh per annum in case of merit-cum-means scholarship. This suggests that higher the education level, wider is the pool of prospective scholarship applicants. Despite this, the number of scholarships given out, and financial allocation for the same, every year, is maximum for Pre-Matric Scholarship, and consistently falls as we move to post-matric scholarship and merit-cum-means scholarship. This trend points out to the possibility that perhaps the government expects lesser number of applications for higher education scholarship. This possibility explains the low representation of minorities in higher education. This is evident from the data on utilization of funds allocated under each scholarship scheme. As can be observed that the percentage utilization of funds during the last three years is highest for pre-matric scholarship scheme followed by post-matric scholarship scheme which is followed by merit-cum-means scholarship scheme.  

As can be seen from the data above, that the utilization of funds for the 2016-17 till February 28, 2017 for the schemes, such as Pre-Matric, Post-Matric and Merit-cum-need scholarship had been dismal. For Pre-matric scholarship scheme, the utilization was zero out of the Revised estimate of 931 crore till February 28, 2017, for post-matric scholarship scheme the utilization was 4.99 crore out of the 550 ear-marked revised estimate, and for merit-cum-need scholarship it was 0.11 crore out of 395 crore. According to the standing committee report for demands for grants 2016-17, the committee had posed the question regarding the low utilization of funds till February 28, 2017 in front of the MoMA. The Ministry had responded by pointing out that on account of the completion of revamping of the NSP (National Scholarship Portal) in July 2016, the deadline for applications and verification of documents were extended a number of times.  At that point of time, the last date of verification at Institute and State Govt level was 28.02.2017 and 02.03.2017 respectively. This was a long time coming, since the NSP, in its initiation phase in 2015, had faced a lot of issues in its organizational structure, architecture and work flow, which had resulted in non-synchronization of NSP and Public Finance Management System (PFMS). This, in turn had led to loss of data during transfer. That year, when the Committee enquired about the steps taken by the Ministry to remove the technical glitches in the National Scholarship Portal, the Ministry had informed that the Government had decided to oversee the process of harmonization of various scholarship schemes. A Group of Officers (GOO) and Group of Secretaries (GOS) had been constituted for this purpose. Government had also decided to go for NSP 2.0 Portal for 2016-17 which would smoothen the process and remove the technical glitches/bottlenecks. 5

 

Further, although, as per the budget norms, expenditure up to 33% of budget provision only can be spent during the last quarter of financial year, for scholarships there is an exemption granted by the Ministry of Finance without any limit for expenditure in the last quarter during 2016-17. Hence, the Ministry took the liberty of releasing the entire scholarship amount by March 2016-17. The portal has been helpful in releasing the entire scholarship amount under Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) mode. Although, according to the MoMA, the process of transferring scholarship amounts under DBT has increased transparency and promptness in disbursement of scholarship, in general, and reduced the number of duplicate beneficiaries and pilferage of funds, there have been some demerits associated with the process as well. There were instances of delay in disbursal in scholarship funds to the accounts of the minority students, due to which they were not able to start their sessions in educational institutions on time. The formalities associated with DBT mode has led to many students from these communities complaining about the hassles in applying for various scholarship applications. According to Amir Nurle, head of scholarship cell, Students Islamic Organisation of India, the students now have to make rounds of tehsildar office and aadhar centres. Earlier, the government would accept birth certificate and income affidavit while applying for scholarship. Now, the students have been directed, on a very short notice, to furnish domicile certificates and income certificates. Though there is no evidence that suggests that the cause is DBT but there has been an increase in the number of applications for Pre-Matric, Post-Matric and Merit-cum-Means Scholarship Schemes for both boys & girls, implemented by the Ministry of Minority Affairs.      

The scholarship schemes are designed in such a manner that 30% of the scholarship funds are ear-marked every year for girl students. In case, sufficient numbers of girl students are not available, then remaining eligible boy students are given these scholarships. Over the years, it has been observed that never have sufficient number of girls from the minority communities applied for these scholarships.

Further, the Ministry has witnessed non-receipt of adequate proposals from some states. This indicates to a publicity problem associated with these schemes. The government has not been able to penetrate to the grassroot levels. According to a Parliamentary question, the Ministry has taken various initiatives to give wide publicity of these schemes through print advertisements and broadcast/telecast of audio/video spots through All India Radio (AIR), Doordarshan/Private TV Channels, FM Channels, Digital Cinema and various other means of outdoor publicity, including publicity made through ‘Progress Panchayat’ to make the target group aware of these schemes. Annual and Regional Conference/Workshops are also conducted at regular intervals for implementing agencies/stakeholder. 6

 

Further, when analyzing the financial outlay of schemes for this year and the last year, it can be observed that though the financial outlay for schemes, such as Pre-matric, post-matric and merit-cum-means scholarship has increased the deliverables/ targets against the outlay has remained the same. Further, in the case of Free Coaching and Allied schemes, the financial outlay has increased from 48 to 74; however, we can see that the deliverables have decreased considerably. This basically raises a question behind the rationale that the government uses in coming up with the allocations under each scheme.

 

Scheme

Financial Outlay (2017-18)

Outputs/Deliverables against the Outlay 17-18

Financial Outlay (2018-19)

Outputs/Deliverables against the Outlay 18-19

Pre-Matric Scholarships

950

30 lakh students

980

30 lakh students

Post Matric Scholarships

550

5 lakh students

692

5 lakh students

Merit-cum-means Scholarships

393.54

60,000 students

522

60,000 students

Maulana Azad National Fellowship

100

832 students

153

1000 students

Free Coaching and Allied schemes

48

18070 students

74

12000 students

 

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Tags: Minority, Education, Rights

Maansi Verma