The central government has decided to discontinue the Maulana Azad Fellowship that was provided to researchers from minority communities selected under the University Grants Commission.
As many as 6,722 candidates were selected under the scheme since 2014, and more than Rs 700 was distributed under the scheme.
In a statement, the central government has said, “Since the MANF scheme overlaps with various other fellowship schemes for higher education being implemented by the government and minority students are already covered under such schemes, hence the government has decided to discontinue the MANF Scheme from 2022-2023.”
The issue was also raised in the winter session of the parliament, where Congress MP TN Prathapan called the discontinuation of the scheme “an anti-minority move”.
He later tweeted:
I strongly demanded for immediate withdrawal of GOI’s decision to stop MANF. Had an informal talk with @smritiirani in which I was given assurance that no existing beneficiaries will be stopped from availing #MANF.
Govt shall continue this fellowship! pic.twitter.com/CTwFYOBxlE
— T N Prathapan (@tnprathapan) December 9, 2022
Some researchers, who were receiving their stipend under the scheme, claim that they are yet to receive their stipends for the last few months.
Delhi University’s Academic Council member Mithuraaj Dhusiya, who also teaches at Delhi’s Hansraj College, called the move to discontinue the scholarship “unfortunate”.
“With a fellowship like the Maulana Azad Education Scholarship gone, the competition for other scholarships will become tougher as the number of candidates will go up. This will impact the opportunities that the minority communities need in order to uplift themselves,” he said.
The five-year scholarship scheme covered mainly six communities – Muslims, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis, Buddhists and Christians. The scholarship was provided to full-time researchers within India pursuing M.Phil and PhD, under three different categories.
Currently, the Rajiv Gandhi National Fellowship, National fellowship for OBC, National Fellowship for Persons with Disabilities and JRF are available to minority communities.