ALSO READSupreme Court sets aside instant triple talaq in split verdict Modi govt blames Congress for stalling triple talaq Bill in Parliament SC verdict on triple talaq: Ball is now in Modi's court, say lawyers End of talaq talaq talaq: Get your facts right with key takeaways Triple Talaq: For every divorced Muslim man, 4 Muslim women divorced
Even as the Narendra Modi government can claim victory in uplifting the status of married Muslim women by championing the Triple Talaq (triple divorce) Bill, it has also been silently working to increase the rewards for young Muslim girls in India. Information from the Ministry of Minority Affairs shows that the government has spent close to Rs 1 billion on providing scholarships to girls from the minority community till 2015-16 (the year till which information is available). The Begum Hazrat Mahal scholarship for meritorious girl students, launched by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in 2003, is given to girls studying in Class 9 to 12th. This scholarship is given to girls from the six notified minority communities in India – Muslim, Sikh, Christian, Buddhist, Parsi and Jain. In 2016-17, the Modi government had capped the number of beneficiaries for this scholarship at 50,000. Of these 36,827 – or roughly 74 per cent of the scholarships were meant for Muslim school girls. This roughly corresponds to the share of Muslims in the total minority population of the country. Under the scheme, girls from the minority communities studying in Class 9 and 10 are given a scholarship not exceeding Rs 10,000 each. Those studying in Class 11 and 12 are given a scholarship of up to Rs 12,000. Both scholarships are released in two instalments. The scholarship is given only to the girls whose parents’ annual income does not exceed Rs 200,000. The amount of scholarships disbursed to girls from the minority community in the first two years of the Modi government is more than the amount disbursed by the Manmohan Singh-led United Progressive Alliance government in the first four years of its second term (UPA-2). An extrapolation of the ministry’s figures would show that more than 35,000 Muslim girls received Rs 43 million in scholarships in 2015-16 alone. There has been a consistent three-fold increase in the number of girls from the minority community who receive these scholarships since 2009.
The Modi government has increased the number of scholarships by one-third since coming to power.The government’s plan to increase the number of scholarships can perhaps partly be explained by the abysmal education levels among Muslim girls. Most Muslim girls who should be completing their matric education and senior secondary drop out of school at an early age. The number of Muslim girls who go on to graduate is the least among all the minority communities in India. Census data show that by the age of 17, only 36 per cent of Muslim girls have passed matriculation. By comparison, 56 per cent and 59 per cent of 17-year-old Christian and Sikh girls complete their matriculation. By the age of 19, when most young adults would have completed senior secondary school, a paltry 23 per cent of Muslim girls do so. By comparison, 44 per cent of 19-year-old Christian girls go past high school. A mere 6 per cent of Muslim girls between 20 and 24 years go on to become graduates – less than half the number of Christian and Sikh girls at this age (See Table 1). This trend among Muslims is particularly striking, especially because more Muslim girls than boys are enrolled in the formal schooling system till the age of 19 – that is explained partly by the fact that many Muslims send their boys to attain informal education in religious madrassas. By the time young Muslim adults reach the age of 24, a significantly higher number of Muslim men are graduates. One of the reasons for poor educational advancement among Muslim girls seems to be that many are married off at an age when they should be in school. Census data suggest that two out of 10 Muslim girls aged 15 to 19 years are married. Almost 7 out of 10 Muslim girls are married when they should be completing college. This again is the highest among all religious minorities in India (See Table 2). While the Modi government’s enhanced scope of the scholarship for girls from the minority community is commendable, this represents a drop in the ocean of educational incentives given to Muslim girls. India sanctioned Rs 15 billion in pre-matriculation and senior secondary scholarships to religious minorities in 2017-18. This money was meant for 3.5 million students from the minority community. Muslim girls comprised just one per cent of these beneficiaries and they got just three per cent of the total money sanctioned by the government. With the Modi government making clear its intentions of ending the debilitating subjugation of women in the Muslim society, the enhanced scholarships could go a long way in ensuring that more Muslim women join the Indian mainstream in the years to come.