A Nexus of Deceit: Ministry of Minority Affairs Exposes Rs 144.83 Crore Scam

India's education sector grapples with the revelation of a multi-layered scam involving minority scholarships, highlighting the urgent need for transparency and accountability
A Nexus of Deceit: Ministry of Minority Affairs Exposes Rs 144.83 Crore Scam

New Delhi. n a shocking revelation, India's efforts to uplift minority students through scholarships have been marred by a deep-rooted scam that siphoned off hundreds of crores meant for their education. The Ministry of Minority Affairs recently exposed a scam amounting to Rs 144.83 crores, diverting funds intended for the betterment of minority students' futures. The magnitude of this fraud underscores the vulnerabilities within the system and highlights the pressing need for stronger oversight and accountability. Union Minister for Minority Affairs, Smriti Irani, has handed over the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation for further investigation. This investigation comes hot on the heels of another scandal involving scholarship misappropriation in Uttar Pradesh, emphasizing the gravity of the issue.

Digital Transformation Breeds Deception

The scammers mined the rich seam of digitalization. The central government has been providing scholarships to minority students since 2007-08. In 2016, in keeping with the trend, the Ministry of Minority Affairs digitized the scholarship allotment process, enabling students to receive the scholarship amount in their accounts. It is here that the rot is believed to have taken root. After getting wind of some irregularities in 2022, the National Council of Applied Economic Research conducted an investigation, covering 1572 minority institutions in 21 states in the first week of July. Investigations revealed that around Rs 144.83 crore had been disbursed to more than 800 institutes that had no students or were non-existent.

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Geographical Hotspots of Fraudulent Institutions

Rajasthan tops the list of fake institutions, followed by Chhattisgarh. Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan had the highest number of fake minority institutions. The report suggested that all the 62 institutions investigated in Chhattisgarh were fake. In Rajasthan, out of 128 investigated minority institutions, 99 were found to be fake. In Assam, 68% of the institutions were found to be fake, while in Uttar Pradesh, 44% of the institutions were found to be fake. Nodal officers in 229 institutes were found to be fake. Nodal officers in each institute verify students and send the list of students to the District Nodal Officer, who then sends it to the center.

Unraveling a Vast Network of Collusion

The scam could have a wide network. The role of bank officials and minority department officers is also being probed, as it is believed that without their connivance, the scam could not have taken place. The officials didn’t bat an eyelid over details like a high dropout ratio of 67% and 66,000 bank accounts in one branch. The Ministry of Minority Affairs has spent around Rs 20,000 crores on scholarships till 2022. The Ministry has issued directions to freeze the accounts associated with these 'institutions.'

Uttar Pradesh Scholarship Scam

Earlier, a scam in the name of a Scholarship also rocked Uttar Pradesh. The scam, which is being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), is likely to cost the government more than Rs 150 crores. ED had lodged an FIR at the Hazratganj Police Station and has raided more than 10 educational institutes in that matter. The police had set up an SIT (Special Investigation Team) to investigate the matter, meanwhile, the ED submitted its report to the Court. The scholarships, which were being misappropriated, are availed by students belonging to SC, ST, and minority categories for post-matric courses. However, some institutes such as Hygia College of Pharmacy in Lucknow were being siphoned off in the names of several ineligible and fictitious accounts.

The probe revealed that the institutes used the bank accounts of minor students who are in the age group of 7-12 years and people in the age group of 45 years and above. The scammers used the documents of people who were unaware of these bank accounts in their names. The agents at FINO bank were also accomplices in the crime, as revealed by the ED investigation.

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Educational Institutes behind the Scam- The Enforcement Directorate has named Lucky Jafri, the Chairman of the Hygia Institute, as the mastermind of the scam. Besides other people accused in the scam, there are Ishrat Hussain Jafri, Ali Abbas Jafri, and their employee Ravi Gupta. While three of the accused have been arrested, Lucky Jafri, the main accused, is ill and is being investigated separately."

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