Educational Scholarships for Religious Minorities in India: Challenges and Prospects

Educational Scholarships for Religious Minorities in India: Challenges and Prospects
Posted on 29-08-2023

Assessing the Impact of Educational Scholarships for Religious Minorities in India

Addressing the importance of education for religious minorities in India, the Niti Aayog released a policy document in 2017, advocating for improved implementation of existing programs. However, over the past five years, the central government has scaled back and reduced funding for various initiatives under the Ministry of Minority Affairs, raising concerns about the support provided.

Rationale for Introducing Scholarships for Religious Minorities

With 20% of the population belonging to minority communities in India, the country hosts more than 30 crore individuals. These communities encompass six religions recognized by the National Commission for Minorities Act of 1992. Notably, Muslims constitute 14.2%, followed by Christians at 2.3%, Sikhs (1.7%), Buddhists (0.7%), Jains (0.4%), and Zoroastrians (approximately 57,000). Of these, the Muslim community faces economic, health, and educational challenges.

Challenges Faced by Religious Minorities, Especially Muslims

The largest religious minority in India, Muslims, encounter difficulties in economic opportunities, healthcare, and education. Many are engaged in the informal sector, characterized by low wages, limited social security, and unfavorable working conditions. The Sachar Committee's 2006 report highlighted the socio-economic and educational disparities faced by Muslims, positioning them above SC/ST groups but below Hindu OBCs, other minority groups, and Hindu upper castes across various indicators.

Establishment of the Ministry of Minority Affairs (MoMA)

In 2006, the Ministry of Minority Affairs was established as a distinct entity from the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. Its objective was to offer a more focused approach to addressing concerns affecting recognized minority groups. The ministry's priorities encompassed educational and economic empowerment, infrastructure development, and special needs. This involved policy formulation, coordination, evaluation, and development programs for minority communities.

Welfare Schemes for Educational Empowerment of Minorities and their Status

  1. Pre-Matric Scholarship Scheme: Initially covering minority students from class 1 to 10, this scheme has been discontinued up to class 8 due to the Right to Education Act covering compulsory education up to class 8.

  2. Post-Matric Scholarship Scheme: Designed for students from class 11 to Ph.D., this program received increased funding but faced challenges like limited scholarships for higher education.

  3. Merit-cum-Means Scholarship Scheme: Geared toward professional and technical courses, this scheme witnessed a notable reduction in funds, impacting its effectiveness.

  4. Maulana Azad National Fellowship (MANF): Supporting research scholars, this program was canceled after benefiting over 6,700 candidates.

  5. PadhoPardesh: This interest subsidy scheme for overseas education loans was discontinued, affecting economically weaker minority students.

  6. Begum Hazrat Mahal National Scholarship: Providing support for higher secondary education to meritorious girls, this scholarship lost its allocation.

  7. Naya Savera: Discontinued due to a lack of alignment with the New Education Policy, this scheme offered free coaching for technical and professional entrance exams.

  8. Nai Udaan: A scheme aiding minority students in preparing for various preliminary examinations, it ceased to receive funding.

  9. Scheme for Providing Education to Madarsas and Minorities (SPEMM): The allocation for this program supporting modern education in madrasas was drastically reduced.

  10. Pradhan Mantri Jan Vikas Karyakram (PMJVK): Formerly known as MsDP, this program's budget decreased, affecting infrastructure development in minority-concentrated areas.

The Need for Strengthening Educational Support

Niti Aayog's 2018 Strategy Document emphasizes affirmative actions to uplift the socio-economic status of the Muslim community, as they lag in several areas. Enhancing educational scholarships and customizing interventions in minority-concentrated areas are recommended to bridge the educational gap.


Recent restructuring, underutilization of funds, and reduced budget allocations have hindered the implementation and objectives of educational programs for minorities. The discontinuation of scholarships is particularly concerning for Muslim students who have benefitted from these initiatives. Strengthening and sustaining these scholarships are crucial for advancing the educational prospects of religious minorities in India.

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