Scrapping MANF

Sachar Committee which was appointed by the Congress-led UPA- I in 2005 released its report in 2006. It observed that the condition of Muslim community in all areas of social and political life has been sliding down. Faced with the insecurity due to violence against them, its representation in social-political life has been going down for a free fall. UPA in all its wisdom decided to work on this nagging social political issue. One of the steps taken by it was institution of Maualana Azad National Fellowship (MANF). This was meant for higher education and research for the minority students. It had provisions for scholars from all religious minorities, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Jeans and Buddhist. Still as the number of Muslim minority is much higher from among the 1000 fellowships lately 733 were awarded to Muslims.

Among Muslims the status of education worsened after Independence due to the intimidating atmosphere, poverty and lack of any affirmative action. As the level of education went up the number of Muslim students enrolled fell down steeply. Above 17 years of age educational attainment of Muslim students is abysmally low. As per Ministry of education data the national average for Matriculation is 17% for Muslims while the national average is 22%. The literacy rate stands at 57.3% as against the national average of 73.4%. The overall illiteracy among Muslims is higher than among other religious minorities. Similarly their enrollment in higher echelons of education and research is much lower. This is where MANF came in as a small boost for higher education among Muslims. As against 14.2% of their population only 5.5% Muslims reach higher education. As per 2011 census data Graduates among Hindus were 5.98 and amongst Muslims was 2.76%.

On similar lines Pre Matric scholarship for Muslims has been restricted only to 9th and 10th standard students only. The pre-matric scholarship was launched in 2008 and was definitely of great help to Muslim students in secondary education. Even at that time with Modi as Chief Minister of Gujarat argued in Supreme Court that Centre cannot force Gujarat to implement it as it is based on Religion! The central contribution for the scheme was returned by the Gujarat state. In tune with this the Central Government has now restricted the scope of Pre Matric scholarship only to 9th and 10th standard students as per a notification in November 2022.

The MANF has been stopped from December 2022 as per proclamation by the minority’s affairs minter Ms Smriti Irani on 8th December 2022. There have been protests against this high handed- policy of the Government and many Congress and other MPs have also raised the issue in Parliament. The argument of Ms Irani is that this scheme overlaps with other similar schemes for which Muslims students are entitled, the ones for OBCs. She forgets that one cannot get two scholarships at the same time.

It is very clear that the present Government is out to undo whatever little affirmative action directed ‘Equal Opportunity’ exists.

Unfortunately in India the dominance of divisive politics has affected the lives of Muslim minorities in diverse ways. Even when not in power they put immense pressure on semi- secular parties not to undertake any affirmative action in favour of Muslim and Christian minorities in particular. With new education policy and ruthless privatisation of education, the poor and marginalised will be the big victims.



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Vol 55, No. 28, Jan 8 - 14, 2023