Maximum amount of the Pre-Matric Scholarship meant for the minority students are kept by the middlemen, school and government employees and bank staffs while handing the students a fraction of it, reveals the investigation by The Indian Express.
An investigation by The Indian Express revealed how bank staff, middlemen, school and government employees have allegedly robbed the minority students from several districts of Jharkhand of a Centrally funded scholarship scheme.
The Pre-Matric Scholarship Scheme is meant for the students of minority communities namely Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis, Jains and Buddhists whose annual family income is below Rs. 1 lakh. The scholarship is given in two tiers every year: students in class 1 to 5 receive Rs. 1000 per year and students of class 6 to 10 receive Rs. 10,700 if a hosteller or Rs. 5,700 if a day scholar. However, the investigation showed that most of these money have been siphoned off.
Eligible students need to register at the National Scholarship Portal (NSP) and submit educational documents, bank details and Aadhaar number from August to November every year. Since most of the students are unaware of the process, the school or sin some cases the middleman fills up the application form. These middlemen, in connivance with bank staff, open accounts of students and the Aadhaar-enable transaction is done through their fingerprints. The students are just handed a fraction of the sum of the cash while they keep the rest.
“This scam is yet another illustration of the vulnerabilities of the Aadhaar-enabled payment system,” said Development Economist John Dreze. “Poor people are regularly robbed of their wages, pensions and scholarships by corrupt business correspondents who take their fingerprint on one pretext or another. We have been trying for years to alert the Reserve Bank of India, the National Payments Corporation of India and others to these vulnerabilities but they seem to prefer not to know,” he added.
Investigation on Sarfaraz Development Academy Mission High School, Kurgi, Ranchi shows that Rohit Kujjur, a Class 10 student, received Rs 10,700 in his Jharkhand State Cooperative Bank account for hostel students. “I had given my fingerprints and Aadhaar details but I didn’t know an account had been created in my name. I didn’t get any money. Also, there is no hostel in the school,” said Kujjur, whose family cultivates vegetables on a small parcel of land. Records show scholarships were given to 174 students, including 148 “hostel” students.
When The Indian Express told the Principal of Blue Bells, Ramghar, Jharkhand that official records had listed 180 beneficiaries from his school for the Centre’s Pre-Matric Scholarship for minority students, he rushed to the nearest police station to file complaint.
“We have not applied for any minority scholarship. Take swift action against those involved in this fraudulent activity,” wrote Mahendra Verma in his complaint at the station in Gola.
There were several other complaints and red flags that pointed at the scam but most of them went unheeded.
On Sunday, Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren ordered a probe and promised to revamp the verification system. Chief Secretary Sukhdev Singh said verification “has been stopped” till the probe is completed. He also called for a special session of the assembly on November 11.
— Santosh Singh (@santoshchitra) November 2, 2020
“We are preparing for the special session of the assembly. The special session of the assembly will be called on November 11. The speaker has conducted a meeting in this regard,” Soren said.