The Maulana Azad National Fellowship (MANF), which has benefitted thousands of minority students in the past, has been discontinued by the Centre from the year 2022-2023, on the grounds that it was overlapping with other scholarships.
In a press release, dated 8 December, the Union Ministry of Minority Affairs stated, “Since the MANF Scheme overlaps with various other fellowship schemes for higher education being implemented by the Government and minority students are already covered under such Schemes, hence the Government has decided to discontinue the MANF Scheme from 2022-23.”
In conversation with The Quint, academicians questioned the move, the justification provided by the centre, and the impact this will have on minority students, particularly on Muslim students.
Why The Fellowship Was Important for Minority Students
Started under the UPA government, the fellowship was a part of measures to implement the recommendations of the Sachar Committee, which studied the socio-economic and educational condition of Muslims in India.
Harish Wankhede, Assistant Professor of Centre for Political Science, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), said, “It is important to look at the empirical evidence from various reports such as the Mandal Commission and the Sachar Committee report that show that a large population of Muslims are educationally backward. The Sachar committee report brings out stark realities such as high drop-out rates among Muslim students. The fellowship was a wonderful scheme — It was very important, particularly for those from lower-income backgrounds.”
The scheme was open to Muslim, Sikh, Parsi, Buddhist, Christian and Jain students pursuing higher studies. The degrees included regular and full-time M.Phil and Ph.D. degrees in Sciences, Humanities, Social Sciences, and Engineering and Technology. The fellowship was aimed at aiding students from minority communities, who are pursuing their higher education, particularly in central universities.