New Delhi: The Narendra Modi-led BJP government has substantially increased budget allocation for minority community candidates appearing in the UPSC exam even as it made marginal cuts on educational grant for minorities.
The budget for providing free and subsidised coaching for minority candidates has been increased from Rs 8 crore last year to Rs 20 crore this year under the ‘Support for students clearing prelims conducted by UPSC, SSC, State Public Service Commissions etc’ scheme.
At the same time, however, less money has been allocated for pre-matric and post-matric scholarships for minorities.
The government had earlier said that its focus is to help improve the condition of the Muslim community through education. When the government announced abolition of the Haj subsidy last year, Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi had said it would use these funds to educate the Muslim community — a step he claimed was evident of “Modi government’s efforts to empower minorities with dignity and without appeasement”.
Funds allocated for educational empowerment of the community has been reduced to Rs 2,362 crore from Rs 2,451 crore last year. The grants for pre-matric and post-matric scholarships has been reduced from Rs 1,296 crore last year to Rs 1,220 crore this year, and from Rs 500 crore to Rs 496 crore this year, respectively.
Explaining this cut, a ministry official said that these reductions are only marginal and there has been an increase in other schemes meant for the betterment of minorities.
“These schemes have been operational for some time and do not need more money. We are instead focusing on persuading more Muslims to prepare for the UPSC,” the official said.
The total budget allocated to the minority affairs ministry has gone up from Rs 4,534 crore in 2018-19 to Rs 4,599 crore this year.
Focus on UPSC
Objective of the UPSC scheme is to have more representation of Muslims in the civil services that has traditionally seen lower presence from the community. The scheme aims to give direct financial support to candidates clearing the Preliminary Examination of Group A and B of the UPSC, State Public Service Commissions (SPSCs) and Staff Selection Commission (SSC).
While under-representation of Muslims in the civil services has always been an issue, the Modi government has maintained that it has reversed the trend of their declining numbers in the past five years.
Buoyed by an increase in the number of Muslim candidates cracking the UPSC exam, Naqvi had last year announced that the government will start free coaching for students in Haj bhavans across states and union territories.
For the first time in history, over 50 Muslim candidates had cleared the UPSC exam in 2017, and then again in 2018. In 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016, their numbers were 30, 34, 38 and 36 respectively. While this year, the number of Muslim candidates who have cleared the exam has fallen to 28, it can also be attributed to reduction in the total number of candidates recruited — from 980 last year to 782.