NEW DELHI: A scrutiny of the 25.5 lakh applicants verified by states for minority scholarship scheme of the ministry of minority affairs for 202223 threw up a shocking reality over 6.7 lakh applicants were found to be nonexistent when Aadhaarbased biometric authentication was carried out, pointing to a scam involving fake beneficiaries.
The scrutiny also revealed that out of over 1 lakh institutional nodal officers (INO) and same number of heads of institutions (HoI) who were responsible for verification of applications, 5,422 INOs and 4,834 HoIs were found missing during the biometric authentication exercise.
Finally, a total of 18.8 lakh applicants could be verified by the ministryled drive, including 6.2 lakh applicants who had applied for renewal of scholarship. According to ministry officials, the scrutiny showed that only under the renewal category in 202223, 30% applicants were found to be bogus. In 202122, the ministry had received 30 lakh applications of which 9.1 lakh were for renewal.
The scholarship is given with the approval and due certification of the nodal minority official at the district level after verification by the institutional nodal official. The money is given through direct benefit transfer into the bank accounts of the beneficiaries.
The findings on missing beneficiaries, nodal officers and heads of institutions will be shared by the ministry of minority affairs with CBI, which is already probing allegations of serious irregularities in minority scholarships.
TOI had earlier reported how a scrutiny of 1,572 minority institutions from 21 states, registered on the national scholarship portal, had revealed that 830 of them had fake beneficiaries, prompting the ministry to hand over the probe to CBI. Nearly Rs 145 crore as scholarships across various categories were doled out to beneficiaries registered by these institutions between 201718 and 202122.
The scrutiny by the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) unearthed a multistate scholarship scam. The ministry handed over the case of alleged diversion of public funds to CBI in July but continued with the scrutiny of the database and undertook bioauthentication under a special drive to verify the genuineness of the applicants for 202223.
During the first phase of the drive to scrutinise 25.5 lakh applicants verified by states, 19.8 lakh applicants did their biometricauthentication and remaining 5.7 lakh were found missing.
In a followup round of verification at the level of institutional nodal officers and district and state nodal officers, the number of verified applicants came down further to 18.8 lakh.
There are 1.8 lakh institutions ranging from madrasas to top notch private and government academic institutions which are registered on the scholarship portal for minority students. The amount of minority scholarship ranges from from Rs 4000 to Rs 25,000 annually. The ministry releases over Rs 2000 crore for the scholarships annually.