DIBRUGARH, Aug 25 � The Prime Minister's new 15-point programme for the welfare of minorities, particularly relating to scholarships for education appears to be a distant dream for the students of the minority communities in the State.
The minorities who comprise communities from Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist, and Zoroastrians (Parsi) have been deprived of scholarships since the past few years despite sanction from the Ministry of Minority Affairs.
Scholarships are sanctioned annually by the Central Government worth crores, but for reasons best known to the State Government, students have not been awarded scholarships since the past few years. While minorities in other states benefit from the welfare programmes, the hapless minorities of the State are made to apply and wait for years. Students are still waiting to receive their scholarships since 2008-09. Since no minority organisations have raised the issue so far, the State Government�s Welfare of Minorities Department is pretending to be vibrant and innocent.
If the official website of the Ministry of Minority Affairs is to be believed, a total of Rs 39.12 crores has remained to be distributed among the beneficiaries of minorities in the State under Pre and Post-Matric Scholarship Schemes. Assam was not allotted fund for Pre-Matric Scholarship scheme in the year 2008-09, but in the following years the Ministry of Minority Affairs had sanctioned Rs 16.83 crores (2009-10)and Rs 8.37 crores (2010-11). Similarly, Rs 8.32 crores and Rs 5.60 crores was sanctioned for the Post-Matric Scholarship Scheme in the year 2009-10 and 2010-11 respectively. But, as to why scholarships are not awarded yet remains to be answered.
Much to the surprise of one and all, another advertisement has come up in the newspapers, inviting applications from minority communities for fresh scholarships. When the concerned department has failed to release the scholarships of previous years, how can the students rely on this new advertisement. Is it another blatant lie?
Sources close to the Welfare of Minorities Department of the State told The Assam Tribune that the Assam Minorities Development Board, which is the implementing agency of the Prime Minister's new 15-point programme in the State, lacks efficiency in handling responsibilities. The concerned department is not well organised, the sources said. But many believe that the money has been siphoned off by those at the helm of affairs. Joseph Kawa, a research scholar and former president of Indian Catholic Youth Movement (ICYM) of Upper Assam has called for the intervention of the Governor in the matter. He also sought a CBI inquiry into the alleged negligence of the concerned department.
Some of the other key welfare programmes for the minorities include enhancing opportunities for education, improving educational infrastructure through the Maulana Azad Education Foundation, equitable share in economic activities and employment, self-employment and wage employment for the poor, upgradation of skills through technical training, enhanced credit support for economic activities, recruitment to State and Central services, equitable share in rural housing scheme and improvement in condition of slums/areas inhabited by minority communities etc. However, whether these schemes are implemented or not, even members from the district minority cells are not aware.
It needs to be mentioned here that the Prime Minister's 15-point programme for the welfare of minorities was formulated out of concern for the welfare of the minorities by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, which was followed up by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, who in his letter dated August 28, 1985 had addressed all the Chief Ministers. The programme was amended in 2009 after need to review and recast the 15-point programme came up, to sharply focus action on issues intimately linked with the social, educational and economic uplift of the minorities and the same was amended in October, 2009. The official website of the Ministry of Minority Affairs Department shows that other states have been awarding scholarships successfully and implementing the programmes. But minorities in the State still remain deprived.