The Ministry of Minority Affairs has made the Aadhaar card optional for availing government scholarships. The Unique Identification Card was made mandatory last year.

The move came on the backdrop of decline in the number of Muslim students availing government scholarships in the year 2014-15 by around 4 lakh.

The statistics submitted before Parliament showed that the number was rising for five years until last year, when Minority Affairs Minister Najma Hebtullah made Aadhaar mandatory for direct benefit transfer (DBT) of scholarship money to students from minority communities, for ensuring transparency.

As most of the Muslims in India live in Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Assam and Maharashtra, the number of students registering for scholarships came down as awareness about the card was less in those regions.

Thus, making Aadhaar mandatory affected the Muslim community the most, while the government scholarships availed by other communities – Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis – registered a rise.

Minister of State for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, however, said the decline could be the result of 2014 general elections. "The decline could also have been because by the general elections in 2014. The process is being streamlined so that more students can benefit from the scholarships," Naqvi told the Hindustan Times.

The Minority Affairs Ministry said that the process of availing scholarships will be made simpler and students can apply for the same on the official website – National Scholarships Portal.

The government scholarship for pre-matric, post-matric and for meritorious students was introduced by the UPA government in order to uplift the "most deprived" minority communities in India – Muslims, according to Sachar Panel.