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Bihar Muslim youth face bank prejudice.

IF YOU are a financially challenged Muslim student in Bihar, even government scholarships won't help you get a better education -- not until the banks in the state change their attitude.

Thousands of poor minority students in the state have been unable to avail the central government's sponsorship scheme because banks allegedly refused to open zero- balance accounts in their names.

This was despite the fact that the Union minority affairs ministry recently wrote to chief secretaries of all states asking them to open " no frills, zero balance" accounts for eligible candidates, citing a Reserve Bank of India ( RBI) circular dated 2005.

But the ministry letter had little effect on the banks and many Muslim students were forced to forego their scholarships, having been unable to open bank accounts before the July 31 deadline.

Patna- based student Mohammed Saddam Hussain, 17, alleged that the local branch of a nationalised bank " simply refused" to open a zero- balance account for him.

" They instead asked me to open a recurring deposit ( RD) account of ` 200 per month. But what use would that be to me? When I asked about the ministry notification, the bank officials said they had received no such intimation. I had no choice but to return," he said.

Luckily, another bank helped Hussain just before the deadline. " The Malsalami branch of the Madhya Bihar Kshetriya Gramin Bank in Patna came to my rescue," he said. Others, however, were not as lucky.

Adil Hasan, convenor of the Bihar- based NGO Surjapuri Vikas Parishad, said the number of students who missed out on the scholarships could be more than 50,000.

Hasan led a delegation to meet Union minister of minority affairs Salman Khurshid in New Delhi on Wednesday to apprise him about the " injustice". " We apprised the minister about the large- scale anomalies and the problems faced by students, not just in Bihar but all over India, in availing the pre- matric and postmatric scholarships," he said.

The Bihar government, however, claimed that no minority student would suffer.

" We have received no complaints in this regard so far," minister for minority welfare Shahid Ali Khan said.

" If they do not have a bank account, we will ensure that the students get the money through the account of their academic institutions," he added.

Khan said the Bihar government had extended the last date for the post- matric scholarships to August 20.

Under the scheme, the Centre awards pre- matriculation and post- matriculation scholarships up to a maximum of ` 6,500 per annum to deserving students.

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Date:Aug 15, 2010
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