There has been around a four-fold jump in the number of girl students from the minority communities applying for scholarships given by the Maulana Azad Education Foundation, which is funded fully by the Ministry of Minority Affairs. The scholarship aims to promote education among girl students belonging to economically weaker sections of the minority communities. For the financial year 2016-2017, the number of applicants was around 45,000, but this time, the number of applicants has witnessed a quantum jump, with close to 2.20 lakh school-going girl students from the minority communities applying for the scholarships.

The ministry has been putting in massive efforts to make people aware of the scholarships so as to make sure that more and more girl students are able to complete their education. An annual stipend of Rs 6,000 is given to students under this scheme.

In the wake of the increased number of applicants, and to make sure that the maximum number of eligible students avails the scholarship, the Ministry is also going to increase the grant-in-aid, which is given to the Foundation for this particular scheme.

Until last year, the scholarships were only available to girl students belonging to Classes XI and XII, but for the first time, it has been made available to students of Classes IX and X, as well, after Minority Affairs Minister Mukhar Abbas Naqvi stepped in. The process for applying and seeking scholarship under the scheme was also made online last year by Naqvi to weed out corruption and nepotism from the process.

As an extra incentive, Naqvi also recently passed the proposal of “Shaadi Shagun” under which girl students availing scholarships under the Maulana Azad Education Foundation will become eligible to apply for “Shaadi Shagun”. Under this, meritorious girls, who go on to complete graduation, before marriage, will receive a cash award of Rs 51,000 from the Ministry. This was mooted by the minister to incentivise higher education among minority groups and encourage parents to let girl students continue their education till at least graduation.

Shakir Hussain Ansari, treasurer of the Foundation, said that the large number of applicants for the scheme, the last date for applying for which was 15 November, has surprised even Ministry officials, as it has grown by around four times. “Despite the process becoming online, which we thought would be an impediment due to low internet awareness and penetration in some rural areas and communities, the increased number is a surprise. This shows that parents and students themselves are becoming more and more aware when it comes to girls’ education. We had put in a lot of effort to publicise the scheme,” he said. For last year’s applicants, the Foundation has already disbursed close to Rs 40 crore for 36,000 of the 45,000 students who had applied. In 2015-2016, Rs 58 crore was distributed as grant to 48,000 girl students of Classes XI and XII. The figure for 2014-2015 was Rs 55 crore for 45,000 girl students.

Girl students who belong to six notified minority communities—Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Parsis—and have secured at least 50% marks and whose parents’/guardians’ annual income from all sources does not exceed Rs 2 lakh, are eligible for scholarships under this scheme.

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