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John Dayal

John Dayal

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Published by Sowingseedsothought

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Published by: Sowingseedsothought on Aug 11, 2011
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08/11/2011

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A Crore of Christian Youth may Get Good Education at GovernmentExpense if the Church Wakes UpMore than Rupees 3,500 crores to be had in scholarships and assistance
 By JOHN DAYALMore than Rupees 3,500 crore has to be had from the government just for the
 
education of Christian children from primary to doctorate and foreign studiesin the next six years
 – 
if only the Church and laity wake up and help.
 
Ballpark estimates say almost a crore of boys and girls of economically
 
disadvantaged rural and urban families from the pre-primary to PhDs,engineering, medical and professional courses students could be assisted.The money is in the government's Plan budgets. And this is apart from themoney that is spent on minority-concentrated districts
 – 
and hopefully block 
 
level units in the future
 – 
by various ministries such as those of Social
 
Welfare, rural development and even of water supply for the befit of theminorities after the Justice Rajender Sachchar committee excavated the bitter
 
fact that these areas continued to suffer from lack of development even whencompared to "general" districts in the backwards group.According to the data available with the Planning Commission's Working
 
group on Minorities, the Budget provisions under the ongoing Five year Planfor the period 2010 is Rupees 2,600 crores, making a total of Rs 7,000 crores
 
for the 11th Plan. For the 12th Plan now under preparation, a massive sum of Rs 15,000 crore is envisaged for scholarship and other schemes under theMinistry of Minorities Affairs. This is for all minorities to be distributed on apro rata basis. The Christian community is about a fifth the size of theMuslim community according to official records. Their share of the entire
 
amount is 20 per cent, a whopping figure. Rule of thumb statistics put thenumber of Christian students at one crore, including Tribals who continue toget benefits under the Scheduled Tribes quotas.This figure does not include Dalit Christians who are neither counted aScheduled Caste, nor as Christian unless they so register themselves. In starts
 
such as Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Naidu, even in Kerala and Maharashtra, manywant to be listed as Hindus so that they can get the Scheduled caste benefitsdenied to them so cruelly under the Presidential order of 1950. [The case has
 
been before the Supreme Court for a number of years, and it is not clear whenthere will be a ruling on it.]The government releases these funds under several schemes, including theMaulana Azad Foundation, free coaching and allied schemes, equity to theNational Minorities Development Fund, Research and monitoring studies,
 
grants in aid to state governments, schemes for leadership developmentamong young women, interest free subsidy on academic bank loans for
 
studies abroad in addition to separate funds for centrally sponsoredscholarship schemes.The leadership of the Muslim community ahs woken up this fact. Deeply
 
focused and committed NGOs have been set up to ensure that every studentwho qualifies for the merit cum means and other scholarships gets the benefit
 
and is not left to the mercy of fate. Muslim NGOs and religious leadership,according to their statements, may have been successful in ensuring that over
 
80 lakh students have scholarships this year, specially in states such as
 
Andhra, Kerala and Uttar Pradesh with large Muslim populations, because of the initiative taken by the community leadership.There is unfortunately a hiatus in the mass communication of suchscholarships despite the claims of the central and state governments. An
 
additional problem is the red tape, an uncaring state bureaucracy, and the lack 
 
of cooperation from both private second and public sector bankinginstitutions. The forms have to be taken from local education officers, ordownloaded from the internet website of the government, not an easy task inrural areas or where the 2G and 3G networks do not exist, and internet cafesare continuously harried by the police looking for "suspects". Once the formsare procured and distributed, they have to be correctly filled up, the
 
signatures of uncooperative principals appended to them, income certificates
 
wrested out of empowers of the parents
 – 
and difficult if the family inunemployed
 – 
various other certificates received, and then the entire bunch
 
uploaded to the department's website, with the papers submitted to theappropriate authority.Muslim grassroots experience has shown that this is an impossible task for a
 
child or a parent to do unless expert assistance is available. This is where thespecial NGOs and volunteers have entered the scene to help the students. Theresults have been miraculous.
 
 The same NGOs are now pressing on the Government through the Ministryof Minority Affairs and the Planning commission that at least 6 croreMuslim students be given scholarships in the 12th Five year Plan. They have
 
assured the government that they would be able to assist as many students of the community across India to avail of the scholarships. The NGOs have alsourged the authorities to streamline the scholarship process, specially as thestudents rise to higher classes in their institutions to ensure that scholarshipsare available for the entire course and not just for one year. This, they feel,will encourage the students to complete their studies instead of dropping outif the scholarship is terminated because they do not get a 50 per cent score insome year.Compare this with the Christian situation. It to the best of this writer'sknowledge, no catholic or protestant church group, nor any lay association,
 
has set up such a extensive and committed support infrastructure to assist itsstudent community. The catholic Bishops Conference or its constituents in
 
the Latin, Syro Malabar and Syro Malankara Rites, the National Council of 
 
Churches in India representing almost 30 Protestant churches and theEvangelical Fellowship of India do not have the institutions to do this work.
 
This has been left to the Dioceses or individual regional churches. But evenin their sectarian
 – 
denominational
 – 
way, they are almost entirelyineffective.In almost every state, when the Bishops of the dioceses are informed of theavailability of the scholarships, all that they do is to ask Parish priests to
 
announce it after Mass one day. School principals put the scholarship detailson the notice board.The lay organisations, wherever they exist have not even done this, though
 
some of them offer pitifully small scholarships for the poor of the parish byway of charity.The result of course is that most students are out of the coverage of theseschemes, both for the pre Matric classes and in higher education.A large chunk of the money has lapsed. And there is pitifully little databasefor advocacy groups to work with the Planning Commission's Working
 
Group of Minorities drafting the Minorities component of the Plan. Christian

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