The UPA era scholarship scam: An in-depth look

Taking matters into its own hands, the Ministry of Minority Affairs embarked on an extensive internal investigation

Taking matters into its own hands, the Ministry of Minority Affairs embarked on an extensive internal investigation
Taking matters into its own hands, the Ministry of Minority Affairs embarked on an extensive internal investigation

Insider story of scam by the UPA regime on minorities

UPA scammed the minorities

If you are wondering why there is a deafening silence on the embezzlement of funds under the Scholarship Schemes for Minorities, it is because there were fake beneficiaries and fake institutions getting scholarships in connivance with schools, Institute Nodal Officers (INO) and Banking Correspondents (BC).

The Ministry of Minority Affairs has accordingly referred the matter to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for investigation.

What were the schemes introduced by UPA?

Scholarship schemes namely Pre-Matric Scholarships, Post-Matric Scholarships, and Merit-cum-Means were introduced by the erstwhile UPA in the year 2007-08. Prior to 2014-15, funds were released directly to the state government/ UTs without any mechanism to verify the applications and map the rightful use of funds.

PM Modi’s DBT implementation

  • In 2014-15, a fundamental change was introduced in the disbursal of funds, and a scheme was implemented on Direct Bank Transfer (DBT) through an existing technological software based out of Hyderabad.
  • It was only in 2016-17 that the schemes were shifted to the National Scholarship Portal (NSP) and implemented on DBT developed in Delhi. Thus, began the process of digitization of scholarship schemes.
  • As part of the NSP portal, verification of applications is done at 2 levels – first by INO appointed by the District/ State Nodal Officer (DNO/ SNO), and at the second level, it is verified by DNO/ SNO appointed by the State government.
  • Once the application is verified by these 2 authorities, it is submitted to the portal/ Ministry for disbursement of funds.

How the UPA era scam was unearthed?

  • As the digitization process progressed, it was observed that the INO, DNO, and SNO ecosystem carried forward from the UPA era misused their authority and continued to compromise on the veracity mechanism established through NSP.
  • In 2020, as instances of siphoning of funds came to the fore, Ministry alerted the states namely Assam, Jharkhand, Bihar, Punjab, and Chhattisgarh about the fraudulent practices in place.

Discontinuation of scholarship schemes

  • After taking charge in July 2022, Minister Smriti Irani ordered the discontinuation of scholarships for minority students from Std 1 to 8, as education in all government institutes is mandated to be free of cost for every child up to Std 8. This was the first strike on fraudulent funding.
  • Further, in order to assess and evaluate the impact of these schemes, she instructed the Ministry to undertake a detailed study of the 3 aforementioned scholarship schemes through an external agency.
  • The National Council of Applied Economics Research (NCAER) was engaged to do the assessment across 34 states/ UTs.

Findings of NCAER

  1. NCAER evaluated 1,572 institutes from 21 states. Out of which, 830 (53%) institutions were found non-operational or fake. More than 1.8 lakh institutes receive scholarships.
  2. Chhattisgarh has 62 registered institutes, and all were found to be fake. Similarly, in Rajasthan, 99 institutes out of a total of 128 institutes were found to be fake.
  3. 229 INOs, which were to be appointed by the District officer, were found to be fake. These fake nodal officers used the AISHE /DISE code of either non-operational institutes or operational institutes without their knowledge.
  4. DISE code of reputed institutions like Mayo College Ajmer was misused in this fraud.
    Between 2017-18 to 2021-22, more than 144 crore was granted to these institutes on account of scholarships.
  5. In one instance, it was found that minority applicants from one state claimed scholarships from an institute of Schedule Tribe Girls in other states.

The findings of the NCAER study clearly indicated a deep-rooted institutionalized nexus between nodal officers of the institutes/ madrasas and states, BCs, and various other people on the ground. These are the same people who indulged in fraudulent practices since 2007-08 when there was no accountability and mechanism to ensure proper implementation of schemes.

Taking note of these findings, the Ministry has referred the matter to CBI for a thorough investigation and to bring every person responsible for siphoning off public money to justice.

Does this explain the secular silence?

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