Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram on Saturday attacked the Centre for discontinuing the Maulana Azad National Fellowship, alleging that the government is on an "overdrive" to make life more difficult for students from minority communities.
In a written reply in Lok Sabha earlier this week, Minority Affairs Minister Smriti Irani had said, "As the Maulana Azad National Fellowship (MANF) Scheme overlaps with various fellowship schemes for higher education, the government has decided to discontinue the MANF Scheme from 2022-23."
In a series of tweets, Chidambaram said, "The government's excuse for scrapping the Maulana Azad National Fellowship and the subsidy for education loans to study abroad to minority students is grossly irrational and arbitrary." Even admitting that there are "overlapping" schemes, is the fellowship and subsidy to minority students the only schemes that overlap with another scheme, the former Union finance minister asked.
"MGNREGA overlaps PM KISAN. Old age pension overlaps MGNREGA in the case of old workers. There are dozens of such overlapping schemes," Chidambaram said. The government is on overdrive to make life more difficult for minority students, he alleged.
"Government is openly displaying its anti-minority policy as if it was a badge of honour. Shame," the Congress leader said on Twitter. In her reply to the question in Lok Sabha, Irani had also said the coverage under the Pre-Matric Scholarship Scheme has been revised from 2022-23 and made applicable for classes 9 and 10 only as the Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009, provides for free and compulsory elementary education (classes 1 to 8) to each and every child.
This modification has also been done to harmonise the scheme with identical scholarship schemes implemented by other central government ministries, she had said. "As of now, there is no proposal to restore/ re-instate these schemes," Irani had said in her reply.