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Cabinet okays scholarships to minority students
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 21
The government today decided to give 20,000 merit-cum-means scholarships annually to students belonging to minority communities for pursuing professional and technical courses in a bid to better their economic condition.

A meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, approved the implementation of the scheme for those students who fulfil the merit-cum-means criteria in under-graduate and post-graduate institutions, finance minister P. Chidambaram told mediapersons here.

Minority communities were identified as Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs and Parsis. The total number of scholarships for the Sikhs in different states is 1853. Of these, they would get 1540 in Punjab, 124 in Haryana, 87 in Rajasthan, 23 in Maharashtra, 22 in Jammu and Kashmir and 16 in Madhya Pradesh.

The centrally-sponsored scheme will be launched during the current financial year and the incurring recurring expenditure in the 11th Plan period would be Rs 761.69 crore, of which 30 per cent would be reserved for girl students.

The scholarships would be of two types - maintenance and course fee. Explaining it, Chidambaram said the maintenance scholarship would be for a period of 10 months at the rate of Rs 1000 per month for hostelers. In course fee, it would be Rs 20,000 per annum or the actual fee, whichever is less.

State governments and union territory administrations would implement the scholarships, he said.

Chidambaram said the course fees for such students taking admission in institutions like IITs, IIMs, NITs and AIIMS would be fully reimbursed even if it was more than Rs 20,000. The list of such eligible institute is 50.

Meanwhile, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs gave its approval for the extension of the Centrally sponsored Swayamsidha scheme for one year upto March 31, 2008. The CCEA also gave the permission to utilise the funds to the tune of Rs 27.81 crore available under the scheme as on March 31, 2007 during the extended period.

The extension of time would ensure the completion of unfinished tasks in order to sustain outcomes of the project.

The Cabinet gave its approval for signing the Bilateral investment promotion and Protection Agreement with Iceland. This agreement would increase investments between the two countries and shall be in force for a period of 10 years.

The Cabinet also gave its approval to amend the Merchant Shipping (Amendment) Bill, 2004 pending in Lok Sabha on the basis of the recommendations of Parliamentary Standing Committee. The implementation of the special measures will make important contribution towards safe and secure operation of ships and for the safety and security of those on board and ashore in Indian context.

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