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After pushing triple talaq Bill, Modi govt needs to focus on Muslim girls

Scholarship scheme launched by Vajpayee has got a new lease of life under Narendra Modi; these need to see better distribution among Muslim women

Sai Manish  |  New Delhi 

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Even as the government can claim victory in uplifting the status of married Muslim women by championing the (triple divorce) Bill, it has also been silently working to increase the rewards for young in India. Information from the 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 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 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 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 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 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 Most who should be completing their matric education and senior secondary drop out of school at an early age. The number of 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 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 do so. By comparison, 44 per cent of 19-year-old Christian girls go past high school. A mere 6 per cent of 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 is particularly striking, especially because more than boys are enrolled in the formal schooling system till the age of 19 – that is explained partly by the fact that many 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 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 aged 15 to 19 years are married. Almost 7 out of 10 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 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. 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 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.

First Published: Tue, January 30 2018. 11:40 IST