The objective of the now scrapped scheme was to provide integrated five-year fellowships in the form of financial assistance to students from minority communities to pursue higher studies such as M.Phil and PhD. The scheme was open to candidates who belong to one of the minority communities i.e. Muslim, Sikh, Parsi, Buddhist & Christian.
Sana Ejaz | TwoCircles.net
NEW DELHI — After the government of India discontinued the Maulana Azad National Fellowship (MANF), on the grounds that it was overlapping with other scholarships, academics and experts from the minority community have criticized the decision saying “scrapping the fellowship will badly impact scholars from the minority community.”
In a press release, dated 8 December, the Union Ministry of Minority Affairs stated, “Since the MANF Scheme overlaps with various other fellowship schemes for higher education being implemented by the Government and minority students are already covered under such Schemes, hence the Government has decided to discontinue the MANF Scheme from 2022-23.”
MANF was launched during the UPA regime as part of implementing the Sachar Committee recommendations.
The objective of the scheme was to provide integrated five-year fellowships in the form of financial assistance to students from minority communities, as notified by the Central Government to pursue higher studies such as M.Phil and PhD. The scheme was open to candidates who belong to one of the minority communities i.e. Muslim, Sikh, Parsi, Buddhist & Christian.
S. Abdul Hameed, President of the National Student Union Jamia Millia Islamia told TwoCircles.net that “overlapping is an illogical reason” for scrapping the fellowships which benefit hundreds of scholars from the minority community students.
“If MANF overlaps with other schemes, then there should be some systematic way to fix it, which the government should have to bring,” he said.
Hameed said that “many Muslims do not come under OBC, ST, and SC and they used to get this fellowship, but now they have stopped this fellowship as well.”
Hameed said that they had been demanding the Centre to correct the anomalies. “Instead of correcting the anomalies, they stopped the scholarship altogether,” he said.
“We demand immediate withdrawal of GOI’s decision to discontinue #MANF for minorities. Is this how you implement #SabkaVikas? Stopping a fellowship scheme named after Maulana Azad is an insult towards our nation builders too,” he tweeted.
We demand immediate withdrawal of GOI’s decision to discontinue #MANF for minorities. Is this how you implement #SabkaVikas? Stopping a fellowship scheme named after Maulana Azad is an insult towards our nation builders too.@smritiirani @ShashiTharoor @INCMinority @tnprathapan pic.twitter.com/fzl4PlMRVb
— N.S Abdul Hameed (@NSAbdulHameed) December 8, 2022
Ajmal Ali, a PhD scholar from Maulana Azad National University (MANU) told TwoCircles.net that the government’s decision to scrap the fellowship is a blow to students from the minority community.
“The government talks about ‘Sabka Sath Sabka Vikas’ but the reality is different. Everyone’s support and everyone’s development is not visible. You are targeting the minority community, and trying to take them away from education. The fellowship money helps us a lot in our research work,” he said.
Senior journalist and media researcher Shams Ur Rehman Alavi told TwoCircles.net that discontinuing the MANF fellowship has a long-term impact on research scholars from the minority community.
“Some political decisions were taken with an aim to appease the section of a majority by giving a message that we are not pleasing the minority. Discontinuing the MANF fellowship will have a long-term effect as there is a lack of resources, and education is becoming quite expensive,” he said.
Alavi said that the fellowship should have been increased instead of discontinued. “With the closure of fellowship, the country itself will suffer because if any section is weak, it affects the country in a big way. Policymakers have to do an open discussion before taking such important decisions,” he said.
For Dr Jamal Uddin, a member of Jamiat Ulema e Hind (JUH), Muslims anyway were not getting much financial help from the government.
“Muslims are living on our own strength so it will not make any big difference,” he said. But by stopping MANF, he said “the government has exposed itself that they are completely against Muslims.”
Reduction in minority quotas
Aside from stopping the MANF fellowship, the central government has tightened the budget of scholarships for minority quotas. On 29 November, the Union Ministry of Minority Affairs stopped pre-matric scholarships for students of the minority community.
Criticizing the decision by the Centre, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge tweeted the Modi government what it will gain by “snatching away” the money from poor students.
“Narendra Modi ji, your Government has shut down Pre- Matric Scholarship meant for SC, ST, OBC, and Minority students of Class 1 to Class 8. What is the point of depriving scholarships to poor students? How much will your Government earn or save by snatching this money from poor students,” Kharge said in a tweet.
.@narendramodi ji, your Govt has shut down Pre- Matric Scholarship meant for SC,ST, OBC & Minority students of Class 1 to Class 8.
What is the point of depriving scholarships to the poor students? How much will your Govt earn or save by snatching this money from poor students ?
— Mallikarjun Kharge (@kharge) November 30, 2022
Sana Ejaz is an independent journalist from Bihar. She tweets @SanaEjaz_