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NCAER finds fake beneficiaries in minority institutions; Govt hands over probe to CBI | India News

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NEW DELHI: A scrutiny of 1572 minority institutions from 21 states, registered on the national scholarship portal, has revealed that 830 of them had fake beneficiaries, prompting the minority affairs ministry to hand over the probe to CBI.
Lack of protests from “beneficiaries” after the Centre’s decision to discontinue scholarship for minorities for Classes 1-8 last year citing the Right to Education Act, prompted the ministry to set off a review of the scholarship data base for all. The ministry gives scholarship up to PhD level.
The scrutiny by the National Council of Applied Economic Research unearthed a multi-state scholarship scam, involving an alleged nexus between minority educational institutions and administration at the district level and banks.
The ministry handed over the case of alleged diversion of public funds to CBI on July 10. The ministry has also ordered freezing of accounts of beneficiaries linked to the institutions where irregularities have been found, sources said. The ministry, meanwhile, continues with the scrutiny of the database.
NCAER was assigned the task of studying the irregularities and discrepancies in the beneficiary database of registered minority institutions on the national scholarship portal. According to sources it was found that in many cases, the educational institutions were either non-operational or did not have the beneficiaries registered on the portal. As many as 229 institutional nodal officers were also found to be fake.
Sources said nearly Rs 145 crore as scholarships across various categories were doled out to beneficiaries registered by these institutions between 2017-18 to 2021-22. While the NCAER’s investigation is the outcome of digging deeper into the data on the scholarship portal, there are 1.80 lakh minority institutions – ranging from madrasas to top notch professional and academic institutions which are registered on the scholarship portal.
Between 2007-08 to 2021-22, over 8.12 crore scholarships across six categories from Class 1 to PhD level have been given, accounting for Rs 22000 crore. The digitisation of scholarship data started in 2016 on the centralised scholarship portal. Scholarship amounts on an average range from Rs 4000 to Rs 25,000 annually. The ministry releases over Rs 2000 crore for scholarships annually.
The NCAER investigation found 62 institutions in Chhattisgarh to be fake. The number was 99 in Rajasthan. The percentage of fake institutions was 68% in Assam, followed by 64% in Karnataka, 60% in Uttarakhand, 44% in Uttar Pradesh, 40% in Madhya Pradesh and 39% in West Bengal.
Sources said in Kerala’s Malappuram, there were disproportionately high number of beneficiaries – around 1.78 lakh each year on an average between 2018-19 to 2021-22.
Besides finding a high number of beneficiaries in certain bank branches like 23252 accounts in Nagaon in Assam, it is revealed that in one case, 2239 scholarships were registered on one phone number. In some cases, it was found that there was no hostel and yet students claimed a hostel scholarship.
Also high dropout rates were observed after scholarships were released— ranging from 67% to 69% from Classes 7 to 9. According to sources, this reflected that students after taking scholarship did not move to the next class and there were a new set of beneficiaries in the subsequent year.
The scholarship can be given out only 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 account of the beneficiary, sources said.
In this backdrop the NCAER investigation raises critical security concerns as to how the KYC – a mandatory requirement for having a bank account was done for fake beneficiaries – most of them minors. Also how the Aadhaar numbers of beneficiaries were obtained and how those institutions found to be non-existent cracked the system to acquire the Unified District Information System for Education code essential to register on the scholarship portal, is a matter of concern that will be investigated now, sources said.
According to sources, after the red flags emerge on the portal based on discrepancies in information being fed into the system, these cases are referred to the district minority officials who are supposed to verify and report the status. It is learnt that what was shocking is that in most of the cases the nodal officials were reporting back all clear reports which now raises suspicion about a nexus at work, sources said.





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