Mumbai, Sep 6

A Maharashtra minister and and officials on Wednesday came in the firing line for allegedly skimming off prestigious scholarships meant for deserving economically backward students to pursue higher education abroad.

The government's list of scholarships for 35 eligible students to study in universities abroad for 2017 was released and put up on the state government website on Monday. Among the surprise beneficiaries was Social Justice Minister Rajkumar Badole's daughter Shruti, who has bagged a three-year scholarship for a PhD in Astronomy & Astrophysics at Britains' University of Manchester.

Two other awardees include Samir Dayanand Meshram, son of Deputy Secretary in Department of Higher & Technical Education and Antariksh Dinesh Waghmare, whose father is Secretary, Social Justice.

While Meshram has bagged a two-year scholarship to study MSc in Mechanical Engineering in University of Washington, Waghmare will pursue a two-year course in Pennsylvania State University for MSc in Information Systems.

However, when asked by media persons, Badole made it clear that he had no role to play in his daughter bagging a coveted state government scholarship.

"Yes. My daughter had applied and was selected. But I had no role to play in it, and I was not a member of the scrutiny committee," he said.

However, he claimed that the family has not yet decided whether to accept the financial help from the government for her studies abroad and said Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis was apprised about his daughter's application.

Maharashtra Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant strongly criticized the the BJP minister and officials for "grabbing" what is meant for the poor people and making them even give up basics like gas subsidies, and not giving due benefits to the poorest sections like the farmers.

"This is sad.. how the really needy students are deprived of their chance to get a government scholarships. The CM must himself clarify this issue," he demanded.

The scholarship, whose value depends on the course, university, country, duration, etc, includes a one-way economy air fare, education fees, allowances, and other expenses, said an official.

Each year, the Social Justice Department awards 50 Scheduled Castes/Neo-Buddhist students financial assistance to pursue higher education, post-graduate and doctoral courses in foreign universities under the QS World University Ranking 300.

Among the eligibility criteria to avail the scholarship is the family income of the applicant should be less than Rs 600,00 per annum.

Despite repeated attempts by IANS, both Meshram and Waghmare were not available for their comments in the matter.

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