Centre Draws Flak for Move to Discontinue Minority Fellowship

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The move to withdraw the Maulana Azad National Fellowship (MANF) has evoked a massive uproar from student groups. Calling it an assault on the education of minorities, the students demanded immediate reinstatement of the scholarships.

GHAZALA AHMAD | Clarion India

NEW DELHI — The Central government, on Thursday, has decided to discontinue the Maulana Azad National Fellowship (MANF) with effect from this academic year.Union Minister for Minority Affairs Smriti Irani announced this in the Lok Sabha.

According to the government, MANF overlaps various other scholarships for higher education.

The MANF was launched during the UPA regime in compliance with a part of the recommendations made by the Justice Rajindar Sachar Committee in its report on the status of minorities.

On the initiative of the Union government, the MANF scheme was implemented by the University Grants Commission (UGC) and as per the data provided by the UGC, a total of 6,722 candidates were selected under the scheme between 2014-15 and 2021-22 and fellowship to the tune of 738.85 crore was distributed during the aforementioned periods.

Irani said, “Since the MANF scheme overlaps with the various other fellowship schemes for higher education being implemented by the government and minority students are already covered under such schemes, the government has decided to discontinue the MANF Scheme from 2022-23.”

Furore among Students

The Union government’s decision to do away with MANF has come as a rude shock for many students. It has evoked a massive uproar of student groups. Calling it an assault on the education of minorities, the students are demanding immediate reinstatement of the scholarships.

The Students’ Islamic Organisation (SIO), a student wing affiliated to the Jamaat e Islami Hind, has condemned the Centre’s decision calling it an attack on the access of minorities to education.

Fawaz Shaheen, national secretary of the SIO, said, “The repeated attack on access to education of minorities shows the callous attitude of the present government, whose hollow rhetoric of ‘sab kasath, sab ka vikas’ has been unmasked in the broad daylight. The rollback of pre-matric scholarships and Maulana Azad fellowship shows the state’s blatant disregard for educational equity. The government seems to wash its hands off the key domains such as education.”

A statement released by the SIO states: “There’s an urgent need for condemnation of the move and mobilisation of conscientious citizens against the onslaught on education and dignity of minorities.”

Condemning the decision to discontinue MANF in its statement, The Azad United Students Federation (AUSF), MANUU, Hyderabad, said, “The Modi Government is neglecting the education sector, especially the educational infrastructure of minority communities. We urge the student community to resist the discrimination.”

The Students’ Union of Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai has also come down heavily on the Centre’s move. They called it a ‘grave injustice to marginalised communities’.

The Students Federation of India (SFI) has called it ‘an attack against educational rights of students coming from minority background’.

Earlier in July, hundreds of research scholars faced dire straits with their research affected due to the delay in the disbursement of the fellowship, the Cognate reported.

After strife between the Ministry of Minority Affairs and the University Grants Commission (UGC) over the distribution of the scholarships, it was finally decided the scholarship would be disbursed in August, as the Cognate reported.

But now that the government has decided to do away with the Maulana Azad Fellowship the fate of the students who have been banking on the scholarship is hanging in the balance.

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