Shocking Scam Uncovered – 830 Minority Institutions Fraudulently Claimed Rs 144 Crore in Fake Scholarships Over 5 Years!
In an astonishing revelation, a confidential source within the Ministry of Minority Affairs has disclosed that an alarming 830 out of 1572 minority institutions across 21 states and the Jammu and Kashmir union territory have manipulated the system, pocketing a whopping Rs 144 crore in counterfeit scholarships over the past five years. Exclusively revealed to CNN-News18, this shocking news has sent shockwaves across the nation.
This deep-rooted malpractice was uncovered during an investigation into the alleged diversion of funds intended for pre-matric scholarships by the Minority Affairs Ministry. It wasn’t until the digitization of records in 2016 that this elaborate financial deception spanning decades came under scrutiny. The scope of the investigation spans a staggering 8 crore scholarships distributed across 21 states, with a considerable 80 percent earmarked for Muslim groups. Presently, investigations are focusing on fake madrasas, tribal schools, and officials involved in the scam.
Government insiders have unveiled that a recent report has laid bare a colossal scam worth hundreds of crores sprawling across 21 states. This report also sheds light on the existence of a shocking 40 crore fraudulent bank accounts equipped with completed KYC formalities.
Alarming findings reveal that in the year 2018-2019, a single mobile number was linked to a staggering 2239 scholarships. In the subsequent period from 2019 to 2020, a total of 577 scholarships were bizarrely tied to a solitary mobile number.
The revelation comes years after the Minority Affairs Ministry initiated a probe into the allocation of pre-matric scholarships in Jharkhand. This was prompted by growing concerns of potential fund diversion orchestrated by an intricate network involving intermediaries, bank officials, school personnel, and state employees.
In 2020, Chief Minister Hemant Soren made a fervent commitment to launch an inquiry into this alleged scam. The Indian Express brought this startling revelation to the forefront through a series of reports that illuminated instances of fraudulent activity within the distribution of pre-matric scholarships authorized by the ministry for the 2019-20 period.
The National Minority Scholarship Scheme, initiated with the establishment of the National Minority Commission in 2007-2008, provides scholarships ranging from class 1 to PhD levels, encompassing both pre-metric and post-metric stages. Since its inception, nearly 8 crore scholarships have been disbursed under this program. For the academic year 2022-2023, close to 26 lakh verified and approved applicants have been recorded. These scholarships are facilitated via the National Minority Commission or the National Scholarships Portal, where approximately 86 percent of the applicants belong to minority groups.
Initiated in 2016, the digitization process facilitated the direct transfer of associated benefits. Under this process, minority students representing institutions with a minority quota are mandated to acquire an endorsement or approval from the institution’s minority officer. This officer should be endorsed and stamped by the district nodal officer or the minority nodal officer. This initial scrutiny process evaluates applications, as per the findings.
Both CNN-News18’s investigation and insiders within the Minority Ministry have confirmed that a red flag was raised shortly after Smriti Irani assumed her position as the current Minister of Minority Affairs.
Intriguingly, it was discovered that nearly 40 lakh applicants, ranging from class 1 to 8, were excluded due to the provision of free education. Given that government institutions and aided establishments already provide free education, the necessity for scholarships in these classes was called into question. These scholarships, directed towards minorities, are now fully funded by the Center, eliminating any 50-50 participation split with the state or any other entity, as the report clarifies.
Between 2007 and 2021-2022, an astounding Rs 22,000 crore has already been disbursed, with an average of about Rs 2300 Crore per year. Notably, when 40 lakh scholarships were discontinued, there was no significant uproar within the ministry.
Red flags emerged, revealing multiple concentrations of accounts within a single bank branch, an alarming link of 22 scholarships to a single SIM card in the same class, schools designated for tribals and girls receiving scholarships meant for boys, institutions with no hostels claiming hostel benefits, and other irregularities such as scholarship applications surpassing actual student enrollment.
During the recently concluded Monsoon session, Union Minister Smriti Irani acknowledged that the National Commission for Applied Economic Research (NCAER) has been entrusted with a deep dive into the matter to investigate these “irregularities.”
The irregularities span over 1.80 lakh institutions falling under the category of entire minority-backed institutions or institutions for minorities. The NCAER’s mandate extends to probing alleged irregularities across 100 districts in 34 states and union territories.
Initially focusing on 1572 institutions in 21 states and Jammu and Kashmir, the NCAER probe unveiled a staggering truth: nearly 830 out of these 1572 institutions were embroiled in fraudulent activities at varying levels.
Subsequent to the initiation of the scholarship scam investigation after the IE report in 2020, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) undertook a thorough examination of the matter. While certain states filed FIRs and made arrests, the issue seemed to subside as these states later affirmed that the matter had been resolved.
However, a separate report now indicates that around July 10 to 12, the Ministry itself requested the CBI’s involvement to address the colossal fraud. Among the 830 institutions flagged out of 1572, these 830 have managed to illicitly claim Rs 144 crore in counterfeit scholarships over the past five years.
It was also revealed that a single bank holds as many as 66,000 scholarship accounts in certain areas. Furthermore, specific districts reported an astounding 8 lakh scholarships disbursed in the last 5 years.
This investigation also unveiled the shocking statistic that 53 percent of institutions in Jammu and Kashmir are fake, and Chhattisgarh is home to 62 fraudulent institutions.
In response, Islamic scholar Atiq ur Rehman commented to CNN-News18, suggesting that government officials must have been complicit in the scam. He feared that the BJP government might halt funds for minorities due to this scandal.
On a different note, Delhi University Professor and Political Analyst Sangit Kumar Ragi expressed concerns, fearing that the embezzled funds might be channeled toward radical organizations.