Amid allegations of conflict of interest, Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) minister Rajkumar Badole's daughter, Shruti Badole, decided to give up her state government scholarship to study abroad.
The son of the secretary of the social justice and special assistance department also got a chance to go for study abroad.
The social justice and social assistance department, which is under Badole, provides the scholarship to a maximum of 50 students a year from Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe and Dalit backgrounds for post-graduate and PhD degrees in any of the world's top 300 universities, according to the internationally accepted QC World University rankings.
The state government has received 178 applications for the scholarship, among them 35 were chosen in between 2017-18. The chosen application included that of Badole's daughter, Shruti who wants to do a PhD in Astronomy and Astrophysics from the University of Manchester, UK.
The list also included social justice secretary Dinesh Waghmare'son, Antakarish Waghmare, and joint director, technical education, Dayanand Meshram's son, Sameer.
Notably, the selection was at the discretion of the government.
Amid all allegations, Shruti sent a letter to the state government saying she wants to give up her scholarship although she won it on merit. However, Antariksh and Sameer intend to go ahead with it.
According to the government officials, the final list of beneficiaries was ultimately drawn up by the social justice department while Badole and the Waghmare maintain they had nothing to do nothing to do with the selection process and that a chief Secretary-led panel was in charge.
A senior government official, on condition of anonymity, said, “The social justice department determines the various categories of courses for which scholarships have to be given and even fixes the number of seats for each category. The selection committee only had one meeting.
The role of the members is to verify the courses the applicants are seeking the scholarship for and if the nomenclature of the courses qualifies for a scholarship, according to the state government’s eligibility criteria.” He said the committee members simply forward their remarks on the applications, after checking the nomenclature of courses, to the social welfare commissioner.
“It is the social welfare commissioner’s office that ultimately decides the eligibility of the candidates and makes recommendations for selection,” the official said, adding the commissioner works as part of the social justice and special assistance department. The state government does not interview the candidates involved and makes decisions simply based on the applications.
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 the social welfare commissioner.
Even the scholarship does not mention any exclusion of government employees or ministers from applying. Earlier, the scheme required the less than Rs 6 lakh annual family of the applicant.
However, the BJP-led state government, through a June 2015 government resolution, waived this criterion for students, who have secured admission in the top 100 universities, according to QC world rankings.
Twenty-nine of the 35 students chosen for the scholarship this year have secured admission in the top 100 universities, which means the income criteria was applicable only for the other six.
Chief secretary Sumeet Mullick said, “There have to be clear rules. If anything, the rules have to be changed, but having said that we cannot deny students who can be chosen on merit.”