New Guidelines for Maulana Azad National Fellowship: 2019-20 is Impractical and Unfair

M. Burhanuddin Qasmi

Maulana Azad National Fellowship (MANF) is a scholarship program to promote and assist higher academic excellence and researches among young scholars belonging India’s religious minority groups – Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains and Parsis etc. The Ministry of Minority Affairs (MMA), Government of India, provides fellowships to selected 1000 candidates each year on merits from University Grants Commission’s (UGC)- NET or Joint CSIR-UGC Test results as per the guidelines set by the MMA.

Recently the MMA led by Mr Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi has issued a notice under subject line as “Public Notice for Inviting Online Information for Maulana Azad National
Fellowship for Minority Students from Candidates of Minority Communities
Qualified in June 2019 UGC-NET / Joint CSIR-UGC Test” with a deadline to submit online applications by 30 June 2020 as per the new guidelines issued under “Scheme of Maulana Azad National Fellowship For Minority Students (Revised Guidelines Effective from 18-02-2020), Government of India, Ministry of Minority Affairs.

The MMA notice reads…”The candidates belonging to the above mentioned minority communities, who had qualified the
UGC-NET or Joint CSIR-UGC Test held in June 2019 for Eligibility for ‘Assistant Professor /
Lectureship Only’ and not for Junior Research Fellowship (JRF) are requested to visit the UGC
website and fill-in the mandatory information in the online proforma
specifically uploaded for the purpose. The deadline for submitting the online proforma is
30.06.2020. The information submitted through any other means would not be considered as valid.”

The new or revised guidelines issued by the MMA for granting scholarships is unfair, impractical and some even term it “discriminatory” for the selection of Maulana Azad National Fellowship (MANF) 2019-20. Earlier there were state-wise distribution of seat slots, as per minority population ratio in different states of the country for this, but according to the new guidelines, which is also available at the MMA website, there is no state-wise allocation of seat slots and the list will be prepared on national level merit basis from UGC NET examination only. The new guidelines also excluded Junior Research Fellow (JRF) from the eligibility criteria list.

“This decision is purely discriminatory because minority scholars from backward states will be worst affected and deprived as education system and facilities in these states are not like in the southern states of India. For instance, the northeastern states of India including Tripura and Assam are still far behind comparing to their counter parts in the South,” argued an inspiring research scholars – Mashud Ahmed of Tripura University in his letter to politicians and academia requesting them to counter this revised guidelines of the MMA.

Obviously, students from states with poor educational infrastructure and environment like ones in the Northeast (NE) including West Bengal and the ones in the North India like Bihar, Jharkhand, UP and Haryana etc. generally score less percentage of marks in their PG as well as at NET examination as compared to their counter parts from educationally better of states of South India. Going by the new guidelines it is a common sense knowledge that the Ministry of Minority Affairs (MMA) apparently did not apply it’s mind to include maximum beneficiaries from the poor and deserving classes of minority people, and from far and educationally less advanced states. The new set of guidelines are utterly impractical and unfair.

The Ministry of Minority Affairs (MMA) and the University Grants Commission (UGC) may urgently revisit their new MANF guidelines with state-wise distribution of slots as were in the previous one and include JRF within eligibility criteria list for greater benefits of the project and maximum inclusion of the targeted beneficiaries. This to be done sooner than later because the UGC is already taking online applications from the candidates with the deadline 30 June 2020 only, and is going to publish the selected list soon.

The author MB Qasmi is Director of Mumbai based Markazul Ma’arif Education and Research Center (MMERC) and Editor, Eastern Crescent magazine.

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