The UPA Government instituted pre-matriculation, post-matriculation and merit-cum-means scholarships for minorities (Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis among others) last year. Following widespread advertising in print, broadcast and Internet media, the scholarships drew around 3.5 lakh applications in 2007-'08. This year, the number has jumped a staggering 14-fold to nearly half a crore applications. The scholarships, meant for meritorious minority students lacking financial means, are offered in all states, allocations being proportionate to the minority population. Scholarships are available for institutions like the IITs, NIFT, SPA, medical colleges, Regional Engineering Colleges and several universities.
The overwhelming response has cut across states and parties in power. In the pre-matriculation category, Left-ruled Kerala (with 29,380 scholarships on offer) has received 14 lakh applications. Mayawati-ruled UP (with 67,420 scholarships) has seen 10.5 lakh applications so far. Left-ruled West Bengal, which has 44,460 scholarships, has received 7.5 lakh applications, and BJP-ruled Karnataka (16,640 scholarships) has received 2 lakh applications. DMK-ruled Tamil Nadu (15,340 scholarships) has received 3 lakh applications.