Last Updated: August 30, 2023, 17:26 IST
Several states have witnessed irregularities in the implementation of the Centre’s Pre-Matric Scholarship, Post-Matric Scholarship, and Merit cum-Means schemes for students of six minority communities—Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, and Parsis—CNN-News18 has learnt. After receiving initial complaints about embezzlement of funds, the government asked the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) to carry out a third-party evaluation.
A total of 1,572 institutes were identified for evaluation based on red flags generated on the National Scholarship Portal (NSP). Of these, 830 institutes from 21 states were found to be either non-operational, fake, or partially fake, said sources.
“Fake” means there is possible irregularity as the students in the list of beneficiaries provided by the ministry turn out to be non-beneficiaries as they either do not belong to the said school, or are from a non-operational school, or they never applied for the scholarship.
It appears that the verifications were compromised at the level of the institute nodal officer (INO) and district nodal officer (DNO) and the scholarship was syphoned off by them in collusion and connivance with the institutes, banks, and cybercafe owners, said sources.
The most common irregularities found at the school/institution level are:
- Some institutions with enlisted beneficiaries were found to be completely non-operational, but are availing the benefits of the scheme.
- The enlisted beneficiaries were found ‘fake’ in some operational schools.
- There are some fake schools, under which scholarships are being transferred to minority students, who either do not exist or belong to other institutions, but never benefit from the scheme.
- In Kanker, Chhattisgarh, one specific government school is functional only for primary classes, i.e., for classes I to V for Scheduled Tribe girl students only and there are no minority students. However, it has been found that a significant number of fake students enrolled in the said school are availing of the Post-Matric Scholarship.
- Bihar: It has been reported that the registered INOs in the MoMA list are cybercafe owners, who probably made fake applications for coaching centre students. Most INOs seek help from cybercafes, due to a lack of computer literacy and skills to operate one.
- Many schools from Madhya Pradesh reported that they are not recognised for the 8th class and above but still, a large number of applications have been filled for these classes. Schools have reported misuse of school user IDs and passwords.
- Many schools from states like West Bengal have most applicants listed as fake, are either from primary or pre-primary classes, or have no minority students studying in the schools.
- In states like Gujarat, Meghalaya, Uttarakhand, Punjab, and Maharashtra, when schools get upgraded from middle level to secondary or higher secondary level, they are allotted multiple UDISE codes for different levels. But on the NSP portal, usually, the first allotted code is displayed. This causes recognition discrepancies.
- Delay in updating the school status on the UDISE portal.
- One institute has 4 colleges with separate UDISE codes, but students from these colleges unknowingly filled out applications from a single code.
- In regions like Jammu and Kashmir, ‘renewal candidates’ applied as fresh candidates, because of the perception that fresh candidates get accepted easily.
- In states like Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, and Bihar, schools have not disabled their old UDISE codes and are using both old and new ones to fill out applications.
- Schools have different UDISE codes for different levels of education provided by them.
- DNOs are not performing due diligence during the verification of applications, maybe due to staff shortage. However, DNOs are aware of fake INOs as the KYC process for each INO is being done by the DNO only.