This comes the same year the education ministry was granted its ‘highest ever allocation’.
The sharp drop in the budgetary allocation for the ministry of minority affairs has left a significant impact on educational schemes. Two of them were discontinued before the budget was announced while five others now have massive fund cuts.
The ministry’s allocation has seen a drop of 17 percent in this budget as compared to the Narendra Modi government’s first budget in 2014. While it was allocated its highest amount in the nine years of the Modi government last year, it had spent only 48 percent – less than half – of the allocated sum.
And now, this year, it has seen its sharpest dip in a decade at around 38 percent – reduced from Rs 5,020 crore in 2022 to Rs 3,097 crore.
In a recent interview to the Hindu, union finance secretary TV Somanathan had said that pushing more money into education will achieve nothing. He said it will be “a sop to the conscience of the intelligentsia that we are doing something for it”.
But this sentiment against funding education is perhaps only reflected in the allocation for the education of minorities. While the union budget this year set aside its “highest ever allocation” for the education ministry at Rs 1.12 lakh crore, the budget for educational schemes for the minorities shrunk – as did the number of such schemes.
This is besides the huge slash in the budget for the ministry’s skilling schemes and special programmes.
Educational schemes scrapped
Among the central sector schemes scrapped under the ministry were the Maulana Azad National Fellowship, which provided five-year fellowships for higher education, and the Padho Pardesh Scheme, which granted interest subsidies on education loans borrowed by the minority students to study abroad.
The pre-matric scholarship, which provided up to Rs 1,000 monthly to students, has been scrapped for classes 1 to 8, but will continue for classes 9 and 10.
The government said the MANF and the pre-matric scheme overlap with other schemes which “also cover minority students”. However, it did not explain the reason the Padho Pardesh scheme was discontinued.
Nai Udaan, which seeks to provide financial assistance to students who clear preliminary examinations conducted by the UPSC, SSC and State PSCs, had zero allocation this year. Last year, a budget of Rs 8 crore was allocated for this scheme.
Further, the merit-cum-means scholarship, which is aimed at supporting meritorious students from poor backgrounds to pursue professional and technical courses, has seen a dip of Rs 321 crore in spending as compared to the previous year. Between 2014 and 2022, this scheme has benefited over 1.5 lakh new applicants on an average every year.
The budget of the Naya Savera scheme, under which institutes with at least 100 students can apply for financial aid to provide free coaching, has also been slashed by 62 percent this year.
However, the allocation for the post-matric scheme – aimed at providing better higher education opportunities – has almost doubled, from Rs 515 crore last year to Rs 1,065 crore this year.
Besides cuts under the education category, programmes under the skill development and livelihood subhead have also seen a trimmed allocation.
86 percent dip in skill, livelihood schemes allocation
The largest scheme under this category – called Skill Development Initiatives or Seekho aur Kamao – aims to tackle unemployment among minorities by imparting quality skill development training. Its budget was reduced from Rs 235 crore last year to only Rs 10 lakh this year. This is despite the scheme benefiting around four lakh people in seven years till 2021.
There was a deduction of 99 percent in the budgets for Nai Manzil, a programme which helps youth get better employment in the organised sector, and USTTAD, a scheme aimed at preservation of traditional crafts.
Over 50 percent cuts in special programme allocation
From Rs 53 crore allocated to three schemes under this category last year, the central government has reduced it to Rs 26 crore this time.
Last year, Rs 41 crore was allocated for research, publicity, monitoring and evaluation of development schemes for minorities – this has been brought down to Rs 20 crore.
The budget of two other schemes has been cut under this category.
These include Jiyo Parsi, aimed at containing the population decline in the Parsi community, and Hamari Dharohar, targeted at preservation of minority heritage. The funds for Jiyo Parsi and Hamari Dharohar have been trimmed by 40 percent and 95 percent, respectively.
‘Sabka saath, sabka vikaas’
The fund cuts were repeatedly brought up in Parliament during the budget session by opposition leaders even as the government maintained its “sabka saath, sabka vikaas” pitch.
“Sachar Committee Report, 2006, and Ranganath Misra Commission Report, 2007 reveal that the condition of Muslims in India is worse than SCs and STs,” said IUML MP PV Abdul Wahab while moving a resolution in the Rajya Sabha for the implementation of the Sachar Committee report. This was backed by nearly all opposition leaders.
The Sachar Committee report had pointed to the socio-economic and educational status of the Muslim community, saying that it was worse than SC and STs.
Meanwhile, in parliament, many MPs continued to demand that schemes such as the Maulana Azad National Fellowship be reinstated.
Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge lashed out at the government over the cuts in proposed spending. “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?”
BJP MP Pritam Munde also voiced concerns about the minority scholarship schemes being scrapped. He said that the decision needs rethinking as “student should not be pushed towards child labour and stay on the path of education”.