Maulana Azad Foundation terminated by Centre as government cuts down on minority schemes

On February 7, the Ministry of Minority Affairs (MoMA) issued an abrupt order to close down the Maulana Azad Education Foundation, without offering any explanation for the decision.

At the beginning of this month a notice dated February 7, 2024, was issued by the Ministry of Minority Affairs instructing the closure of the Maulana Azad Education Foundation ‘at the earliest.’ The notice does not provide, as of now, any reason behind the closure.

A termination notice was instructed to be given to forty-three contractual employees. The Ministry of Minority Affairs also mandated the transfer of surplus funds to the Consolidated Fund of India. The Maulana Azad Education Foundation possessed assets valued at Rs 1073.26 crore as of November 30, 2023, alongside liabilities amounting to Rs 403.55 crore.

According to the directive, the assets are to be transferred to the Central Wakf Council, which will take on the administrative responsibility for the affected employees.

The closure of the foundation has hardly made news with only select independent media outlets covering the decision.

The MAEF was for the upliftment of minority community members. To be recipients of these schemes, one had to be of the six minority groups which are Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis and Jains. Founded with the mission of promoting education among the marginalised sections of society, the Maulana Azad Education Foundation was funded by the Ministry of Minority Affairs and the ministry took on the role of the ex-officio President of the Foundation. Since its official registration under the Societies Registration Act, 1860, on July 6, 1989, the Foundation has brought about various schemes for minorities.

The MAEF used to administer scholarships such as the Begum Hazrat Mahal National Scholarship for minority girl students. This scholarship, for pre-matric and post-matric girl students was in 2023 subsumed under the Pradhan Mantri Education Empowerment Scheme (PMEES) as part of the Ministry of Minority Affairs in 2023.

Secondly, it started the Gharib Nawaz Employment Scheme for Minorities in the fiscal year 2017-18 to aid youth from minority communities through skill-based employment. The scheme sought to provide short-term job-oriented skill development courses to minorities as a way to increase employability by focusing on school dropouts and other minority youths.

In 2021, the then Minority Affairs Minister, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi had told the parliament that 371 training centres were opened under Gharib Nawaz Employment Scheme across the country. The scheme, according to Naqvi, guaranteed 70 % employment, out of which 50 % would ensure placement in the organised sector. Naqvi mentioned that over 21.5 lakh minority youth had helped get skills and training from schemes by the government, including the Gharib Nawaz Employment Scheme, Seekho aur Kamao, Nai Manzil etc.

Not a sudden end to MAEF?

In the 2022-23 Union Budget, there was a staggering reduction of over 99 % in funds allocated to the Maulana Azad Education Foundation (MAEF). In contrast to the previous year’s budget for 2021-2022, where MAEF received Rs 90 crore, the current budget allocates a mere 1 lakh (0.01 crore) to the foundation, the New Indian Express reported. According to the newspaper, the foundation refused to comment when the NIE reached out to them at the time. The website of the MAEF also remains to be updated. The foundation has a report by committee on its website that is a report on the condition of minorities from 2017. The Home page of the website says that it was last updated in October, 2023.

The data from the only evaluation report available on the website is from 2010, where the organisation states that around 12064 girl students were recipients of the scholarship schemes by the MAEF in 2008-09, and since its introduction in 2003 till 2009, the foundation had given scholarships to over 27,000 minority girls. The report also details that about 970 NGO’s in disadvantaged areas received aid from the foundation to give basic educational infrastructure and facilities in areas which have a concentration of educationally backward minorities.

The Ministry of Minority Affairs saw an increase in its allocation, with Rs 5,020.50 crore allotted in the 2022-23 budget, marking a rise of Rs 209.73 crore compared to the previous year’s revised allocation of Rs 4,346.45 crore. The Indian Express further reported that in the same year over a 1000 girl students who had applied for the Begum Hazrat Mahal Scholarship missed out on receiving their scholarships did not receive the scholarship because the ‘verification’ remained ‘pending’ by the nodal officers of their districts, which remained the status until the time of the scholarship lapsed in 2021-2022. This information was only released after a petitioner filed an RTI in Gujarat’s Jamnagar.

What could be the effect of the withdrawal of the provisions under MAEF?

In 2022, the union government cancelled two important scholarships granted to minority community members, which include the pre-matric scholarship and the Maulana Azad National Fellowship. The move left countless students unsupported and without a means for education. The cancellation of the pre-matric scholarship, which provided a meagre sum of support to minority students from classes 1 – 8, was justified by the ministry as a move that was to bring the Ministry of Minority Affairs on par with the Ministry of Social Justice, as other pre-matric scholarships were only for classes 9-10. Interestingly, the BJP government has a long history of opposing provisions for minorities. In 2008,when pre-matric scholarships were started, the Gujarat government, led by the then Chief Minister Narendra Modi, had challenged it in court arguing that the centrally administered scholarship was a scheme based on religion and argued that the state should not be obligated by the Centre to enforce such a program, according to a report by The Wire. In 2017 During 2017-18, about 1,15,000 girls were given scholarship under the Begum Hazrat Mahal National Scholarship Scheme that was started by MAEF.

Similarly, a recent report by The Mooknayak has stated that nearly 50% of the funds that slotted for minority educational programs have not been used. The report stated that activist MA Akram filed an enquiry under the Right to Information Act and discovered concerning data in the utilisation of funds designated for the fee reimbursement scheme where despite an allocation of Rs 305.8 crore for these specific purposes, a substantial sum of Rs 174.23 crore remained unutilized. Similarly, the Centre for Educational Development of Minorities, which is slated to provide coaching for competitive examinations, did not use more than half of its allocated funds.


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