NEW DELHI: Shabbir Alam, Ravi Jain, Mohammad Aqib, Ayushi Jain, who come from different places across India, have two things in common—they all cleared the 2019 UPSC examinations, the results of which were declared earlier this month, and secondly, all of them are among the unprecedented 22 candidates who had availed the “Nai Udaan” scheme of the Union Ministry of Minority Affairs that provides financial assistance of Rs 1 lakh to candidates from the minority community who have cleared the Preliminaries of the examinations.

The Sunday Guardian spoke to some of these 22 candidates, who come from far-flung areas such as Ladakh and Anantang, and all of them said, but for the assistance of Rs 1 lakh provided under the “Nai Udaan” scheme, getting a good rank in the UPSC examinations would have been difficult for them.

These 22 candidates come from Bihar (2), Jharkhand (2), Karnataka (1), Kerala (5), Jammu and Kashmir (2), Ladakh (1), Uttar Pradesh (3), Madhya Pradesh (2), Rajasthan (3) and Tamil Nadu (1). Of these 22, nine are from the Jain community, 12 from the Muslim community and one from the Christian community.

Mohammad Aqib, 25, who got the rank of 579 and belongs to Sant Kabir Nagar, Uttar Pradesh, told The Sunday Guardian that the financial assistance helped him in clearing the examinations as he was able to prepare while knowing that he was not putting any extra burden on his father who was a farmer. “I have an extended family and my father also has to take care of my sisters and brothers. The assistance helped me a lot in studying with a free mind,” said Aqib, who completed his graduation from IIT, Chennai.

Ravi Jain, who came 9th, said that he bought a test series from the money he was provided under the scheme. “I was staying in Delhi and preparing for the Mains. The assistance helped a lot as I had money to take care of the preparations that included the test series that costs Rs 16,000. I also used the assistance money to buy a suit for the interview,” said Jain, who comes from Deoghar, Jharkhand.

The scheme can be availed of only once and is applicable to candidates whose annual family income from all sources does not exceed Rs 4.50 lakh. The scheme is the brainchild of Mukhar Abbas Naqvi, Union Minister for Minority Affairs.

Similarly, Mohammad Nawas Sharif Uddin, 29, who hails from Kargil and got a rank of 778, said that the assistance helped him in staying in Delhi and preparing for the Mains and the interviews. “My father is a retired government employee. It would have been very difficult for me to prepare for the mock interviews by staying in Delhi, so far from home, if I did not have the assistance under the scheme,” he said. A veterinary science graduate, Nawas said that a major part of the money was spent on writing tests for the Mains.

Jharkhand’s Jamshedpur-based Shabbir Alam, who got 403rd rank, said that he invested a lot of the money he got on buying books for the Mains examinations. “Preparing for the UPSC has become very costly. The financial assistance helps a lot, especially when it comes to buying books that are very expensive. I was able to focus more on my studies rather than worry about how to arrange for the money,” he said.

According to Ahmed Bilal Anwar, 25, who got a rank of 332 in UPSC 2019, the assistance took care of the financial insecurity which one faces while preparing for the examinations. “It impacted my confidence level in a positive way and had a psychological impact as I was able to invest on test series and other material without thinking about how my father would be able to arrange it,” Anwar, who hails from Darbhanga, Bihar, recalled.

Mukhar Abbas Naqvi, Minister for Minority Affairs, told The Sunday Guardian that the success of the “Nai Udaan” scheme showed the Narendra Modi government’s resolute and effective efforts for “promotion and progress” of meritorious youths from the minority communities.

“The Ministry of Minority Affairs is implementing a large-scale free-coaching programme for meritorious youths belonging to six notified minority communities preparing for the UPSC examinations. We are providing free coaching under ‘Nai Udaan’, ‘Naya Savera’ to minority youths preparing for Civil Services, other UPSC examinations, medical, engineering, banking, administrative examinations and other competitive examinations, through various institutions and organisations,” he told The Sunday Guardian.

As per ministry officials, one candidate has also been selected in the UPSC this year after receiving a free coaching programme being run by the Haj Committee of India. In all, 145 candidates belonging to minority communities have been selected in the prestigious Civil Services, and they include 40 candidates from the Muslim community. A total of 829 candidates have qualified for the UPSC jobs, the results of which were declared on 4 August.

According to Naqvi, his ministry was focused on improving the level of education among the minority communities, and this was starting to show results. “The Modi government’s efforts towards educational empowerment have resulted in a significant decrease in school dropout rate, especially among girl students. Before 2014, only 2 crore 94 lakh minority students had been given scholarships and middlemen were dominating the system. In the last six years, 4 crore 60 lakh minority students, who include about 60% girl students, have been provided different scholarships by the Ministry. In the last six years, more than 10 lakh people from the minority communities have been provided employment and employment opportunities through employment-oriented skill development schemes such as ‘Hunar Haat’, ‘Seekho Aur Kamao’, ‘Garib Nawaz Swarojgar Yojana’, ‘Usttad’, ‘NaiManzil’,” he added.

“We are working on a rapid pace to secure Waqf properties. Records of more than six lakh registered Waqf properties across the country have been digitised. Geo-mapping of all the Waqf properties is going on at a war-footing and the process of geo-mapping of all Waqf properties will be completed in the next two years. Geo-mapping will ensure these Waqf properties are utilised for socio-economic and educational empowerment of society. For the first time after Independence, the Central government is giving 100% funding to establish schools, colleges, girls’ hostels, ITIs, polytechnics, common service centres, Hunar Hubs etc on Waqf properties under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Vikas Karykram (PMJVK),” Naqvi said.

During the last six years, under the PMJVK, which focuses on districts with substantial minority population, the ministry has developed 1,512 new school buildings, 22,514 additional class rooms, 630 hostels, 152 residential schools, 8,820 smart class rooms (including those in Kendriya Vidyalayas), 32 colleges, 94 ITIs, 13 polytechnics, two Navodaya Vidyalayas, 403 multi-purpose community centre “Sadbhav Mandap”, 598 market sheds, 2,842 toilet and water facilities, 135 common service centres, 22 working women’s hostels, 1,717 health projects, five hospitals, eight Hunar Hubs and 5,956 Anganwadi Centres.