More than 325 crore is spent every year by the Maharashtra Government on residential schools or ashramshalas. These funds which are allocated under the state’s Tribal Sub-Plan, includes Rs.225 crore, with Rs.100 crore assigned for the teaching and non-teaching staff and Rs.900 as the monthly allowance per child for 10 months a year.
Echoing the bogus enrollment scam of 2011, Maharashtra now is caught up in the midst of dubious enrollment in the name of tribal students. The racket surfaced after the launch of an Andhar registration drive by district officials. It revealed how 50 state-aided residential schools for tribals in Maharashtra’s Jalgaon district, had enrolled scores of tribal students, only on paper.
The scam came into the limelight after The Indian Express, released the official data whereby out of 25,922 students, a staggering number of 8,177 students could not be traced in the Jalgaon schools. So much so, that many of the students were found to be in the neighbouring districts such as Nandurbar district; some students on the rolls, were even from Madhya Pradesh.According to these officials, the management of many of these institutions in Jalgaon is handled by dominant political figures, which includes a former minister.
As the early survey which showed 559 state-aided schools to have enrolled 30-40 percent out of 2.4 lakh tribal students, might turn out to be “bogus entries”. The Maharashtra government therefore, has landed in a soup and has led to a state-wide investigation to verify the student rolls. As per the official records, the dubious entries indicate a loss incurred by the government exchequer, of at least Rs.67.5 crore in the previous year in terms of student allowance.
While complaints regarding the false enrolments were received by the state’s tribal development department, in the previous month; the district officials clearly denied such discovery. According to the Jalgaon Collector Rubal Agrawal, this scandal was unearthed only during the Aadhar registration drive this month.
“The Chief Secretary had directed all District Collectors to intensify the Aadhar registration drive across the state. We held week-long camps in the 50 residential schools, starting August 13, for registering students when we noticed the discrepancy in the rolls. A second drive in the following week confirmed the fraud,” she said.
When her office confronted the institutions regarding this discrepancy, she claims to have received vague responses-“They (the managements) argued that the students had been sent home either due to sickness or for spending time with their families in the festive season. Relocation of families was another popular reason cited”.
It was only after a thorough scrutiny, that the scam was revealed.
Agrawal’s claims resonated with that of Rajagopal Devara, principal secretary of tribal development department, who said to have observed similar discrepancies. As a result of this, he said that the state has decided to stop the funding for this ‘inexistent’ students.
Taking this forward through the launch of a drive that would trace Aadhar cards of students with the allowances and grants given to these schools in their names, Devara said that the department is trying to escalate the matter.“We are waiting for the submission of similar reports from other districts. Once that happens, we shall take further action against errant institutions,” he confirmed.
Although such instances have unveiled in the past, as that of the 2011 scam, effective measures have been compromised in the long run.
News Source: The Indian Express