New Delhi, Mar 13 : Minority Affairs Minister, A. R. Antulay today said a scholarship scheme for 25 lakh school students belonging to minority communities will be launched next month.
Antulay told the Lok Sabha that a Centrally-sponsored scheme of pre-matric scholarships has been approved for eligible students of class I to X, and added that 30 per cent of these scholarships would be earmarked for girl students.
The Minister said, Rs 1,400 crore has been tentatively provided for the scheme during the 11th Plan and it would be implemented from April one this year.
He said State Governments and Union Territory (UT) Administrations, would implement the scheme with funding to be shared between the Centre and the states in the ratio of 75:25, while 100 per cent financial assistance will be provided to the UTs.
Antulay said, students, whose parents' annual income does not exceed Rs one lakh and those with not less than 50 per cent marks in the previous final examination, are eligible for the scholarship. While rejecting the BJP's criticism of the scheme, Antulay said: "It is their duty rather, they think, to divide the country. The UPA Government has tried to assimilate all sections. No section, on the basis of caste, creed or religion, should be deprived."
It may be recalled that in the recent General Budget for 2008-09, the Government had proposed to recruit more members of minority communities in the Central Paramilitary Forces and also open new branches of banks in areas of their density.
Union Finance Minister, P.Chidambaram had also announced a Rs.10 billion budgetary allocation for the development of minorities, who account for over 18 percent of the country's total population.
The Justice Rajinder Sachar Committee, which was set up by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in March 2005 to evaluate the socio-economic and educational status of minorities, in particular Muslims, has revealed in its report widespread illiteracy and poverty among minorities, in particular Muslims.
According to Census 2001, Muslims account for 13.8 percent of the country's total population.