The Centre on Thursday said it has decided to discontinue the Maulana Azad National Fellowship, a scholarship for students from minority communities, from this academic year.

Union Minority Affairs Minister Smriti Irani said that the decision was made as the fellowship overlapped with other schemes.

The Maulana Azad National Fellowship was launched in 2009. It provided financial assistance to students from six notified minority communities – Buddhists, Christians, Jains, Muslims, Parsis and Sikhs – to pursue MPhil and PhD.

The scheme was launched as part of measures to implement the recommendations of the Sachar Committee, which studied the socio-economic condition of Muslims in India, according to The Hindu.

On Thursday, Irani told the Lok Sabha that government provides fellowship for higher education through various schemes, including the Maulana Azad National Fellowship.

“All these Schemes, except MANF [Maulana Azad National Fellowship], are open for candidates of all communities including minorities but the data of fellowship distributed among minority students is captured only under the MANF scheme,” Irani said. “Since the scheme overlaps with other fellowships...and minority students are already covered under such schemes, the government has decided to discontinue the MANF scheme.”

Irani provided the information in a written reply to questions put forth by Congress MP TN Prathapan.

Prathapan, however, told The Hindu that he will raise the issue in the Parliament.

“This is injustice,” he said. “A number of researchers will lose their chance to study further by this step.”

National Students Union’s Jamia Millia Islamia president NS Abdul Hameed said the move will adversely affect Muslim, Sikh and Christian students who are not considered as Other Backward Classes in some states.

“The scholarships for minorities, OBCs, Dalits and Adivasis used to get overlapped as the applicants may be from same social or religious backgrounds,” Hameed said, according to The Hindu. “We have been demanding the Centre to correct the anomalies. Instead of correcting the anomalies, they stopped the scholarship altogether.”