Pic- Vartha Bharati
Pic- Vartha Bharati

Closure of Maulana Azad Foundation a ‘Retrogressive’ Step, an ‘Agenda Against Minorities’

The government had started pulling the plug on the Foundation since 2022-23 when it was allocated a mere Rs 1 lakh in 2022-23.

Lucknow: The decision by the Ministry of Minority Affairs (MoMA) to abruptly shut down the Maulana Azad Education Foundation (MAEF) is being seen as a setback to the goals of improving minority education in India.

The ministry’s under-secretary, Dhiraj Kumar, on February 7 ordered the closure — which was recommended by the Central Waqf Council (CWC), a government body that regulates educational initiatives for Central government notified minority communities viz Buddhist, Christian, Jain, Muslim, Parsi and Sikh to pursue higher education such M. Phil and Ph.D.

Forty-three contractual employees have reportedly been served with notice of termination. The Consolidated Fund of India is the recipient of excess funds, as authorized by the MoMA. 

As of November 30, 2023, the MAEF had liabilities of Rs 403.55 crore and assets estimated at Rs 1073.26 crore.

The CWC, which would assume administrative responsibility for the impacted employees, is to receive the assets, according to the directive.

‘A Retrogressive Step’ 

Describing the closure order as a “retrogressive step”, former Union Minister Salman Khurshid said the government, with this decision, has closed all avenues of higher education for minorities.

“The foundation funded school as well as higher education on an incremental funding basis. It means, if someone is not able to get the requisite money from all the sources, the foundation would fund the gap and there was no scope for double beneficiaries. It not only funded higher education in the country, but also those who studied in foreign universities,” the noted lawyer, who has served as the minister of minority affairs, told The Mooknayak.

He said shutting down the foundation is a “retrogressive step”, which has now “closed all avenues, enabling the economically backward group to pursue higher education”.

The foundation, according to him, served as a safety net for marginalized Pasmanda Muslims and other minorities to uplift their education standards.

He said that the work done by the foundation in the wake of the Sachar Committee findings has been washed out. 

‘Part of Agenda Against Minorities’

Academicians termed the MAEF closure as an end to multipolar and multicultural environment-based governance. 

“Muslims are in dire need of educational support. They need madarsa modernization and skill-based education. The closure of the MAEF shall put the poor in an even poorer position. The need of the state to safeguard minority rights is paramount, and a composite and collective culture should be practiced in a rule-based world,” Lucknow-based Professor Mohammad Osama.

Abhay Kumar, a professor of the Delhi University, said he is not surprised by the development as the government is already cutting on educational activities and social welfare schemes. 

Accusing the government of having an “agenda against minorities”, he said the Maulana Azad Scholarship was stopped a few years back.

Hitting out at the government, he said the decision has also exposed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s claim that he wants to see the Muslims holding the Holy Quran in one hand and the computer in another. 

He alleged that the budget on the social sector is being slashed because of the pressure from the corporate sector.  

Kumar, who is a keen observer of Muslim issues, emphasized on the need for increased funding for the education of Muslim community.

While Muslim youths are underrepresented in higher education and public employment, their enrolment in higher education has further gone down. 

While the total number of enrolment of Muslim youth was 21.01 lakhs in 2019-20, it declined to 19.22 lakhs in 2020-21.

Dwindling Funding Crippled Foundation 

The foundation was established in 1989 on the occasion of the birth anniversary of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, the first education minister of the country, as a voluntary, non-political and non-profit organisation with the objective to improve the educational standards among the backward communities of the country. 

It was registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860. 

The MAEF came under the aegis of the Ministry of Minority Affairs after the latter’s establishment in 2006.

The MoMA provided full funding to the foundation. However, the foundation was crippled after its funding was reduced drastically from Rs 90 crore in 2021-22 to Rs 1 lakh in 2022-23, Rs 10 lakh in 2023-24 and nothing in 2024-25. 

It undertook schemes like Begum Hazrat Mahal National Scholarship Scheme with the objective to promote and assist meritorious girl students belonging to minority communities who found it financially challenging to continue their studies.

Another scheme — Khwaja Gharib Nawaz Employment Scheme — aimed at providing short-term job-oriented skill development training to youths from the community.

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