Blocking gate to education

The Gujarat government’s unwillingness to spend its share in a Central scholarship scheme is denying more than 50,000 minority students access to better education. The BJP-ruled state is the only one to have refused to implement the pre-matriculation scholarship scheme since it was launched in 2008. The Narendra Modi government says it can’t bear the 25 per cent funding required under the scheme.

But officials at the state secretariat say there’s more to it than meets the eye. “The scholarship amount under the scheme is very high compared to what we provide to the community students along with other backward classes
(OBCs) in the state,” an official of the department of social justice and empowerment, who wished to remain anonymous, told HT.

“While the (Hindu) OBCs, scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, who in many cases are more deprived, continue to get paltry sums, how can we give them (minorities) huge amounts?” the official asked.

The Centre gives around 22 lakh scholarships for poor minority students. Of these, 57,000 are earmarked for Gujarat. With Christians forming just two per cent of the minority population, Muslims would have been the biggest beneficiaries of the scheme.

Academicians have described the state government’s decision not to distribute the scholarships as unconstitutional.

Professor V. K. Tripathi of Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi, who has been working for the development of education among Muslims here since 2002, said providing education to every child is the fundamental responsibility of the state.

“Rather than depriving poor children of one community on the grounds of the scholarship amount being lower for another, efforts should be made to increase the value of all scholarships ...,” he said.

Tripathi, who runs an NGO called Sadbhav Mission, wrote to Modi in August, requesting that the scholarships be distributed. He is yet to get a reply. Gujarat has, however, accepted post-matric scholarships for the minorities, which is totally funded by the Centre.