New Delhi,UPDATED: Aug 19, 2023 19:01 IST
In the biggest minority scholarship scam in India, about 53 per cent of beneficiaries of minority scholarships in the country have been found to be ‘fake’. An internal enquiry conducted by the Ministry of Minority Affairs revealed deep-rooted corruption in as many as 830 such institutions, leading to a scam of Rs 144.83 crore in the past 5 years. Union Minister Smriti Irani has escalated the matter to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for further investigation.
India Today has learnt that the Ministry of Minority Affairs had officially lodged its complaint in the matter on July 10. The investigation involved enquiries in 100 districts across 34 states. Out of the 1572 institutions scrutinised, 830 were found to be involved in fraudulent activities. The statistics come from 21 out of the 34 states, while investigations into the institutions in remaining states are still underway.
For now, the authorities have ordered the freezing of accounts linked to these 830 institutions.
The Ministry’s scholarship program extends to around 1,80,000 institutions, covering students from class 1 to higher education. The initiative was launched in the academic year 2007-2008. With fake beneficiaries for the program, scholarships meant for minority students were claimed by these institutions every year.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) will probe the nodal officers of these institutions who gave approval reports, the district nodal officers who verified the fake cases, and how multiple states allowed this scam to persist over the years. Sources told India Today that the ministry has also raised questions about how banks allowed the opening of fake accounts for beneficiaries, with fake Aadhar cards and KYC documents.
Sources said that despite being non-existent or non-operational, many of the scrutinised institutions managed to get registered on both the National Scholarship Portal and the Unified District Information System for Education (UDISE).
- Chhattisgarh: All 62 scrutinized institutions were found to be fake or non-operational
- Rajasthan: Out of 128 institutions scrutinized, 99 were fake or non-operational
- Assam: A shocking 68 percent of institutions were found to be fake
- Karnataka: 64 percent of institutions were found to be fake
- Uttar Pradesh: 44 percent of institutions were found to be fake
- West Bengal: 39 percent of institutions were found to be fake
MULTIPLE RED FLAGS DURING INVESTIGATION
- In Malappuram, Kerala, one bank branch disbursed 66,000 scholarships, surpassing the registered number of minority students eligible for scholarships
- In Anantnag, Jammu and Kashmir, a college with 5,000 registered students claimed 7,000 scholarships
- One mobile number of a parent was associated with 22 children, all supposedly in class IX
- At another institution, despite the absence of a hostel, every student claimed a hostel scholarship
- In Assam, a bank branch allegedly had 66,000 beneficiaries, and the verification team was threatened at a madrasa when they attempted to verify student details
- In Punjab, minority students received scholarships despite not being enrolled in school
- Out of the 1,572 minority institutions scrutinized, a staggering 830 were found to be either fake or non-operational
- Scholarships meant for genuine minority students were being claimed by these fake institutions
- The corruption in this case appears to have penetrated multiple levels of the system
- District nodal officers and institutions were verifying scholarships without on-ground scrutiny
- Fake beneficiaries were successfully claiming scholarships
- The Minority Affairs Ministry has ordered the freezing of accounts associated with the 830 implicated institutions