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Maharashtra minister’s daughter, secretary’s son get state scholarship to study abroad

cities Updated: Sep 07, 2017 09:04 IST
File photo of Maharashtra’s social justice minister Rajkumar Badole

File photo of Maharashtra’s social justice minister Rajkumar Badole

A Maharashtra minister’s daughter and the son of an IAS officer in his department have made the cut for a special state scholarship to study abroad, triggering accusations of fund misuse and questions over conflict of interest.

Social justice minister Rajkumar Badole’s daughter, Shruti Rajkumar Badole, will study at the University of Manchester in the UK, while department secretary Dinesh Waghmare’s son, Antariksh Dinesh Waghmare, will study at the University of Pennsylvania in the US.

Incidentally, it is the social justice and special assistance department that administers the scholarships instituted in 2003 for post-graduate and PhD courses.

The scholarships are given to a maximum of 50 students from Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Dalit families who have secured admission in any of the world’s top 300 academic institutions.

The minister’s daughter and the bureaucrat’s son are among 35 students deemed eligible this year.

While Shruti Badole will pursue her PhD in Astronomy and Astrophysics for three years, Antariksh Waghmare will do a two-year Master of Science course in Information System.

As a part of the scholarship, the state will fund the students’ return economy fare, tuition fee, and an annual stipend of $14,000 (nearly Rs 9 lakh), or£9,000 (more than Rs 7.5 lakh) in case of admission in the UK.

The scholarship includes an additional fund of $1,375 (around Rs 88,000), or £ 1,000 (around Rs 83,000) for the UK for other academic expenses.

Despite several attempts, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Rajkumar Badole could not be reached for comment.

On Wednesday evening, the social justice department said in a statement that the objection to Shruti Badole and Antariksh Waghmare’s selection was wrong and both had made the cut purely on merit.

“Shruti Badole has a degree from the Indian Institute of Technology, Chennai, and has studied Master of Science in London. She has got admission in the 29th best institution as per the internationally accepted QS world university rankings. Similarly, Antariksh Waghmare has got admitted to the 95th best university,” the department said.

“No rules have been changed to ensure their inclusion. Moreover, the minister and the secretary took a stand that they won’t be associated with the selection process since their wards were applicants,” the statement added.

Social justice department secretary Dinesh Waghmare defended his son and the minister’s daughter’s inclusion in the scholarship list. “They are both adults and applied independently as per the procedure and were selected on merit. The fact that Shruti Badole is the daughter of a minister and my son is an IAS officer’s son is not a reason for disqualification.”

He added, “The selection committee used to be under my chairmanship, but because we were aware that our children were applicants, we kept away from the process. The chief minister constituted a new committee this year under the chief secretary’s chairmanship.”

Besides the chief secretary, the selection committee includes the additional chief secretary of higher and technical education, the medical education secretary, directors of medical education and technical education and social welfare commissioner.

The scholarship was earlier only for students whose annual family income did not exceed Rs 6 lakh per annum. The state cabinet amended norms in 2013 to waive the income criteria for students who secured admission in the top 100 academic institutions, said Dinesh Waghmare.

The opposition slammed the BJP-led Maharashtra government over the two selections, saying the minister was misusing a scholarship scheme for the needy.

“On one hand, the prime minister appeals to people to give up gas subsidy and the state government tells well-to-do farmers to refuse the loan waiver, but on the other hand, the minister is misusing a scheme for his daughter,” said Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant.

“This shows the double standards of the government, where the public should keep sacrificing, while the ministers keep benefiting,” he added.