Kerala govt decides to alter minority students' scholarship ratio

State cabinet
Last month, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had said that an expert committee would study the High Court's recommendations on the minority scholarship. Photo: Screengrab

Thiruvananthapuram: Following the diktat of the High Court in May, the Kerala Cabinet on Thursday decided to replace what has been perceived as a Muslim-friendly formula for minority scholarships with a population-based one. In effect, the scholarship distribution ratio of 80:20 (80% for Muslims and 20% for Latin and Converted Christians) will change to approximately 60:40.

Nonetheless, a release issued after the Cabinet meeting said that under the new system no minority community would lose any benefits they had been enjoying till now. This would mean that the scholarship benefits received by the Muslim community till last year would be retained.

So, even if the ratio has come down for the Muslim community, the government would continue to grant scholarships to as many Muslim candidates as last year. The total amount disbursed as scholarships to the community will also remain unchanged.

However, the number of beneficiaries in the Christian community (Latin and Converted Christians) would go up. This is why the Cabinet has allotted an additional Rs 6.2 crore for the purpose.

Last May, the High Court had struck down the 80:20 ratio for scholarship distribution saying it was "unconstitutional". Under this formula, 80 percent of the scholarships went to Muslim candidates and 20 percent to Latin and converted Christians.

It was a petition filed by Justine Pallivathukkal seeking an equitable population-based scholarship formula that led to the High Court order. Initially, the scholarship was instituted on the basis of the Sachar Committee's findings. Later, Latin Christians and converted Christians were included as beneficiaries.

According to the 2011 census, minorities form 45.27 per cent of Kerala’s

total population: Christians (18.38%), Muslims (26.56%), Buddhists (0.01%), Jain (0.01%), and Sikh (0.01%). Muslims form more than half of the minorties. Even then, the community makes up only 59.05 percent of the minorities and Christians, 40.87 percent. The rest - Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs - constituted 0.73 percent.

The High Court, while directing the government to distribute merit scholarships on an equitable basis, had quashed three government orders, issued between 2008 and 2015.

The first order, issued on August 16, 2008, said a minority cell would be set up in the State Secretariat based on the recommendations of Paloli Mohammed Kutty committee. The Paloli committee was formed to probe the economic and social backwardness of Muslims in Kerala after the Sachar Commission report had painted a dismal view of the community in the whole of India.

The 2008 order included the provision for granting 5,000 annual merit-based scholarships of Rs 3,000, Rs 4,000 and Rs 5,000 each to women

students from the Muslim community pursuing professional courses.

The second order, issued on February 22, 2011, extended the scholarship and hostel stipend to Latin Catholics and converted

Christians, following the same yardstick applicable for women Muslim students. The order specified 20 percent of the total scholarships to these two Christian communities.

The third order, issued on May 8, 2015, was about scholarships to minority community students pursuing Chartered Accountancy, Cost Accountancy (ICWA) and company secretary courses. As per the order, students graduating with 60 per cent marks and hailing from families with an annual income of less than Rs 6 lakh, were eligible. Students from BPL families were preferred.

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