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Maharashtra: Rs 500 Crore fake student scam uncovered

May 18, 2024
Private schools show 5 lakh fake pupils to defraud government grants
Nasrin Modak Siddiqi

A major scandal has emerged in Maharashtra’s Education Sector, jeopardising the integrity of the Right to Education (RTE) Act. It reveals how private school management is defrauding the government by overstating student enrollment numbers. 

In an attempt to retain government aid, approximately five lakh fictitious students have been reported as enrolled in private educational institutions. This has resulted in a monthly loss of Rs 500 crore to the state government. A scam of this magnitude severely impacts the enforcement of the Right to Education (RTE) Act, as it hampers the chances of genuine students’ right to enrollment and availing of educational aid allocation. This means that the funds that should be going to support the education of real students are being diverted to non-existent ones, depriving the former of their rightful resources.

Exposed by Aadhaar verification
The policy requiring Aadhaar card linkage for school admissions revealed the bogus student enrollments. An estimated 5,16,188 students were admitted without Aadhaar cards, indicating their non-existence. This discrepancy was highlighted by a mismatch between the Unified District Information System for Education (UDISE) data and physical inspections. The Aadhaar verification process involved cross-referencing the student enrollment data with the Aadhaar database, revealing many non-existent students.

A breakdown of fake students shows that 1,79,056 students without Aadhaar cards are in Government schools, 1,11,444 students without Aadhaar cards are in private aided schools, and 2,25,000 students without Aadhaar cards are in private unaided schools. 

An ongoing menace
Incidentally, the first instance of such fraud was exposed in Beed district in 2021. A public interest litigation brought the issue to the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court, leading to the formation of a committee chaired by retired Justice PV Hardas. The committee’s report, submitted in July 2022, prompted the government to mandate Aadhaar for school admissions. This case underscores the crucial role of the judiciary in addressing such systemic issues in the education sector.

Aiming for a clearer picture
School Education Commissioner Suraj Mandhare said, “The education department itself took the initiative in verifying and linking the UID to student registration numbers in the portals. This was to bring transparency to the system. First, to make any comment on monetary loss, it needs to be ascertained whether there are students without UID or whether these are fictitious entries. That verification is going on through Block Education Officers, and the final picture will be released after that. This is a laudable exercise done by the department, and for the first time, UID linking of almost 96 per cent of students has been successfully done.”

Also read: Bengal teacher recruitment scam: Schools face teacher crisis after court order

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