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Jharkhand scholarship scam: Aadhaar obtained, account hijacked, and hostel faked

FROM 102 beneficiaries in a school that never applied for benefits to students whose religion was changed in the records, an investigation by The Indian Express has revealed multiple instances of fraud and corruption across Jharkhand in the distribution of pre-matric scholarships for 2019-20 sanctioned by the Union Ministry of Minority Affairs through the National Scholarship Portal (NSP).

Over the last month, this newspaper tracked 15 schools across six districts in the state and spoke to over 30 students, parents and school authorities to investigate the list of beneficiaries. Here is the second set of cases:

Sarfaraz Development Academy Mission High School, Kurgi, Ranchi: Records show that Rohit Kujjur, a Class 10 student, received Rs 10,700 in his Jharkhand State Cooperative Bank account for hostel students. “I had given my fingerprints and Aadhaar details but I didn’t know an account had been created in my name. I didn’t get any money. Also, there is no hostel in the school,” said Kujjur, whose family cultivates vegetables on a small parcel of land. Records show scholarships were disbursed to 174 students, including 148 “hostel” students.

Read | Many ways to dupe a poor student: steal IDs, lie about source of funds, pocket most of it — all officially

Sarfaraz Ahmad, owner, said: “Before the lockdown, 40-50 students stayed in the hostel.” He did not provide any details about the hostel’s location, or explain how so many students received scholarships. “These details are handled by my computer operator,” he said.

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Sunrise Public School, Tangar, Ranchi: Records show that Aasmin Khatun, 17, received Rs 5,700 on May 11. “We haven’t got any passbook. We were allotted Rs 2,500 by the school but they said it has been adjusted in the fees. I am a small-time farmer and the money would have been of much help, especially after the lockdown,” said Ajij Ansari, the father of Aasmin who appeared for Class 10 exams this year.

Rakiba Khatun, a Class 10 student, also received Rs 2,500 from the sanctioned Rs 5,700. “We don’t know in which bank my account was opened. We were given cash,” said Rakiba, 17. “I am a farmer but don’t own any land. During the lockdown, we got a pittance for our produce. We will try to educate our children as long as we can,” said Latif Ansari, Rakiba’s father.

Records show 130 students received Rs 5,700 each. Munsaf Ansari, the owner, said: “We have done nothing wrong and all the students were given the scholarship money. The students who were given lesser amounts had not paid their school fees, and the money was adjusted.”

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Ajij Ansari and Latif Ansari denied that they had not paid the fees.

‘Never filled any scholarship form’

Madrasa Alia Arabia, Ranchi: Records show that among the 102 beneficiaries is Sana Parween, a Class 8 student. But Parween, a resident of Kanke, is a Class 10 student of St Anne’s Girls School. “In 2018, I was told that a scholarship form has to be filled and the government is sending money. In 2019, when the money came, the middlemen told us to give them half,” she said.

Madrasa Alia Arabia is a residential facility for boys. Mohammad Sahabuddin, head teacher, said: “We never filled any scholarship form for any of our students.”

Indira Gandhi Memorial High School, Nawagarh, Dhanbad: Records show scholarships were sanctioned for 324 students — all except one received Rs 10,700 each for “hostel” students. The three-room school has no hostel.

Ram Dubey, director, said: “We have only 80 students. I did not initiate any application. This is a big fraud.”

Unidentified, Ranchi: Hasan Ali’s account number in the Public Finance Management System (PFMS) for direct transfers lists him as a beneficiary of Rs 10,700 for hostel students, but the school’s name could not be verified. Ali, a 25-year-old father of a child who owns some land, said he was approached by a middleman who told him to give his fingerprints on a PoS machine and Aadhaar details to avail “charity money from the Saudi government”.

Read | Jharkhand CM orders probe into scholarship scam: ‘action soon’

Records show the money was deposited in his account on May 11. “The middlemen only gave me half the amount. My sisters, too, received money like this,” said Ali.

‘Don’t know why religion was changed’

Sunrise Public School, Ratu, Ranchi: Scholarship records list Abhay Singh, a Class 9 student, as a Sikh. His family says they are Hindu Bhumihars. The records also list the 15-year-old as a Class 10 student who received Rs 10,700 as a hosteller. “I was given Rs 4,000 in cash. The school is an extension of the owner’s home and there is no hostel,” he said.

Records list Khushi Mahato, studying in Class 9, as a Christian who received Rs 10,700. “I am a Hindu and we received Rs 4,000 after my fingerprints were taken,” she said.

Scholarship records show 170 beneficiaries, including 168 who received money for hostel students.

Salim Khan, owner, said the school had a hostel where “40-50 students stayed before the lockdown” but could not explain the number of beneficiaries. Asked about the change in religion of students on records, he said: “These things do not happen in our school.”

From Explained | What is Jharkhand’s pre-matric scholarship scam?

Sarfaraz Development Academy Mission High School, Kurgi, Ranchi: Records list Satish Lakra, a Class 9 student from the tribal community as a Muslim who was received Rs 10,700 in a Jharkhand State Co-operative Bank account. “I was told that I will get Rs 1,500 as stipend money but I have not received it. I have only one SBI account,” said the 16-year-old.

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Sarfaraz Ahmad, the school owner, said: “I don’t know how their religion has been changed.” Bank sources said the money was lying unused in the account since Lakra’s fingerprints were not submitted amid the Covid lockdown.

Madrasa Kuraniyakalimul Ulum, Dumka: Records list 270 beneficiaries, including 179 hostel students. However, the contact number listed in the name of Ajmeri Biwi, a Class 6 student, was answered by a man who identified himself as Manzar Bari from Gaya in Bihar. “I don’t know what you are talking about,” he said.

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Samshul Haque, who runs the madrasa, said he did not verify any application for the scholarship. “Someone seems to have cheated us,” he said.

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