Published: 02nd December 2020
As Post Matric Scholarships dither in Centre-State logjam, academicians call for immediate release of funds
It was recently reported that over 60 lakh senior school students from SC communities are facing a financial crunch as the states have been unable to afford the funds
Over the last few weeks, there have been several reports of multi-crore Post Matric scholarship irregularities, massive delays in disbursement, and the centre and the states are at loggerheads over who should be funding the scholarships. All this has left the students belonging to the Scheduled Caste communities worried about the fate of one of the country's most availed scholarships, one that has played a crucial role in getting people from the community to pursue higher education. Academicians and activists across the country came together on Tuesday to discuss the problems and come up with solutions to ensure that the scholarship is not discreetly done away with.
Beena Pallical, the General Secretary of the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights along with several other activists and academicians including former chairman of the University Grants Commission and economist, Sukhdeo Thorat, Vimal Thorat, Paul Diwakar, from National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights, Delhi University Professor, N Sukumar, former IAS officer and activist Christodas Gandhi, activist Ruth Manorama and several others were present. The activists criticised the Centre for not taking the initiative to ensure the scholarships are being disbursed properly so as to not deprive lakhs of students from Scheduled Castes of their right to education.
“The centre and the states seem to be blaming each other for scams, misappropriations and non-allocations and have brought the entire scheme to a standstill. There is not only abysmally low allocations but massive delays and a backlog of payments due to the states. Post Matric Scholarships has been one of the biggest scholarships int he country and has benefited more than 60 lakh students. In this pandemic situation, we are shocked that the Centre is taking this anti-SC/ST stand," Pallical said. Paul said that the attempts to do away with the scholarship will bring back to reality the story of Ekalavya having to cut his thumb for his teachers. “The UGC doesn’t provide any money for any SC/ST scholarships,” he added.
Thorat pointed out that the UGC has not yet properly implemented the Special Component Plans constituted for the benefit of marginalised students. Thorat also pointed out that educationists shouldn’t look over the fact the New Education Policy could have seriously damaging influence on marginalised students as well, “From turning the three year course into a four year one, offering diplomas to merging colleges with universities, creating multiple exit options will all end up creating the caste system in higher education. Even the All India Assessment Tests is unnecessary when the college entrance tests are working just fine. Nationalised exams will just further create divide,” he explained. Christodas Gandhi was of the opinion that the states should take up more to make it easier for students to avail benefits and not just rely on the centre.
The activists were also particular that the centre does its job and provides the required funds for the scholarship. They also elaborated on the government’s inefficiency in providing scholarships in a timely fashion, causing students to drop out and go through extremely difficult situations to pay their fees due to delays. “In my research, I found that out of 600 students from 10 universities, 500 had not been receiving their scholarship stipends on time. There is no accountability. We are being told that because of scams the government wants to slash these scholarship programmes but corruption happens everywhere, in every sector, Why should funds for scholarships get cut because of it,” Sukumar questioned.
It was recently reported that over 60 lakh senior school students from SC communities are faced with financial crunch after the state was unable to afford the funds since the centre only funds 10 percent of the scheme. Usually, the centre and state take a 60:40 share of scholarships and fellowships for students. The Post Matric scholarship gives SC students Rs 18,000 per annum for Class 11, 12. Since the states are forced to pay up the remaining of the money, 14 states across the country had shut down the scholarships.
The activists and academicians called for a concrete plan to address the issue and demand the urgent attention of the centre. From approaching the Prime Minister directly to petitioning the court to protests, the activists are determined to protect the rights of marginalised students.