Mega Scholarship Scam 2023: Despite Prime Minister Modi’s vocal stance against corruption, recent events reveal a concerning contrast where the accountability of the ruling government has been a new debate among the people of the country. Multiple corruption cases have emerged in the last few months, raising doubts about the government’s commitment to transparency.
Instances such as the mismanagement of the Ayushman Bharat Scheme under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and controversies within the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways paint a troubling picture. Apart from the recent revelations of corruption, now comes new evidence of irregularities in scholarship distribution within the Ministry of Minority Affairs which only adds to this pattern of misconduct.
There is no doubt that the Modi government’s anti-corruption rhetoric has been one of the reasons for their back-to-back good performance in elections. But now, the charges of Mega Scholarship Scam 2023 question their credibility and the opposition has started targeting the ruling government to answer all the allegations levelled at them.
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All about Mega Scholarship Scam 2023
In a significant development, a case has been lodged in relation to a suspected scholarship scam, where a staggering 830 purportedly “fake” institutions illicitly profited, leading to a substantial loss of approximately ₹144 crore to the Ministry of Minority Affairs over a span of five years from 2017 to 2022. Officials divulged this disconcerting information on Tuesday. Notably, the ministry underscores that the scope of this fraudulent operation might extend beyond the period for which digitized data was available through the NSP platform.
The preliminary analysis suggests that the scam could have commenced much earlier than the 2017-18 period currently under scrutiny. The gravity of the situation cannot be overstated, as more than 830 institutions are alleged to have fraudulently benefited from a scheme intended to uplift marginalized sections of society. Of these 830 institutes, more than 700 alleged fraud cases were detected in only five states: Assam (with 225 such institutes), Karnataka (162), Uttar Pradesh (154), Rajasthan (99), Chhattisgarh (62).
The Mega Scholarship Scam 2023 came to light as a result of diligent efforts to investigate and analyze the embezzlement of funds under various Scholarship schemes. Apart from the five states that accounted for a combined total of 702 institutions allegedly engaged in fraudulent activities, additional such establishments were discovered in Madhya Pradesh (31), Bihar (25), Maharashtra (17), West Bengal (14), Uttarakhand (12), Telangana (11), Jharkhand (6), Andhra Pradesh (5), Punjab (3), and one each in Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Tamil Nadu, and Meghalaya, as mentioned in the complaint.
The most notable anomaly regarding the Mega scholarship scam 2023 was identified at the level of schools or institutions, where the team encountered numerous establishments that are entirely inactive yet are still taking advantage of the program’s benefits. Furthermore, within many active schools, beneficiaries listed were discovered to be fraudulent.
Steps Taken to Counter the Scam
The Ministry of Minority Affairs responded to the Mega scholarship scam 2023 by enlisting the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) to conduct a thorough Third Party Evaluation of the Scholarship Schemes. Furthermore, the ministry undertook an evaluation through the National Scholarship Portal (NSP), flagging questionable institutions and applicants through the identification of “Red Flags.”
As per reports, there are a total of 1,572 institutions across 21 states, which were selected for assessment using the red flags raised within the NSP system. Among these, 830 were discovered to be categorized as “non-operational,” “fake,” or displaying characteristics of partial falseness. Considering the same, the First Information Report (FIR) has been filed against unidentified individuals affiliated with banks, institutions, and other entities.
The charges filed in the FIR encompass a range of violations, including criminal conspiracy, cheating, forgery, and breaches of the Prevention of Corruption Act, according to sources familiar with the matter. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has now entered the fray, registering an FIR into this alleged minority scholarship scam. The FIR was based on a “written complaint received on July 10 from Indevar Pandey, Secretary (Ministry of Minority Affairs),” the CBI stated.
On August 28th, cases were registered against unknown officials of those 830 institutes, unknown officials/ public servants of PSU banks, and district/ state nodal officers involved in the Mega scholarship scam 2023. They were booked under IPC sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 420 (cheating), 468 (forgery), 471 (using as genuine a forged document or electronic record), and several sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
Minorities must be protected in every sense
The total loss of over ₹144 crore to the Ministry of Minority Affairs raises concerns not only about financial management but also about the accountability and oversight mechanisms surrounding such crucial social welfare initiatives. The investigation is expected to unravel further details and expose those who have abused the trust placed in them for personal gain.
The failure of Smriti Irani (minister in charge) and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi (previously in charge) in overseeing the Mega scholarship scam 2023 is concerning. Her silence in previous cases also raises eyebrows, showcasing a pattern of inaction. The absence of a single Muslim Lok Sabha MPs from Lok Sabha is a glaring worry as they represent the largest minority community. The government’s incompetence is consistently highlighted by the opposition. This stark contrast between claimed actions and actual performance points to a substantial gap in the Modi government’s credibility and efficacy.
This scholarship program was initiated during the academic year 2007-08 by the Ministry and it encompasses approximately 180,000 establishments, catering to students ranging from primary to tertiary education levels. The persistence of such a scam traced back to the time when the BJP came to power, highlights a worrying streak of ineffectiveness. It is high time that ministers redirect their energies towards eradicating corruption, safeguarding the rightful beneficiaries of welfare programs, and upholding the principles of transparency and accountability.
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