Protests erupt at Karnatak University over scholarships for SC/ST students

Colleges are demanding that students pay the entire admission amount up front, even as students claim that they are not able to afford it since they have not received their scholarships yet
Students of Karnatak University protest meet VC after protest for state scholarship | Pic: Sourced
Students of Karnatak University protest meet VC after protest for state scholarship | Pic: Sourced

Students of the Karnatak Science College of the Karnatak University, Dharwad, staged a protest yesterday, November 7, against the administration's insistence that they pay the entire college and hostel fee. The issue concerns students from the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes who receive scholarships from the State's Department of Social Welfare to support their entire undergraduate education. Up until this year, this scholarship used to be sent to the account of the student's college. The college would then deduct the fees and forward the rest of the amount to the students for their personal use.

However, this year, the State Government has changed that rule and the scholarship amount is now being transferred directly to the student's accounts, from which they are required to pay the fees. This is where things get complicated. The students claim that they have not yet received the amount from the Department of Social Welfare. However, they claim that the college authorities have asked them to pay the entire fee at the outset and wait for it to be reimbursed when the scholarship comes. The students claim that they are unable to afford these amounts which vary across courses. At the Karnatak Science College, the students claim they were being asked to pay Rs 19,000 as a hostel fee.

Mahantesh B District President, Dharwad, All India Democratic Students Association (AIDSO), who helped these students organise the protest at the Karnatak University campus yesterday, told EdexLive, "We met with the Registrar and the Vice-Chancellor of the University. We argued that the students will pay the fee only after they get the scholarship. And until then, they should only charge nominal fee from the students, instead of demanding the full amount."

AIDSO State Secretariat Member Subhash also claims that as per the new rules by the State Government, the college is supposed to award admission at a nominal amount. After the students receive the scholarship, they are supposed to pay the fee within seven days. "Colleges are not maintaining proper records of scholarships. And in many cases, colleges were also not getting the full scholarship amount from the state. This is then reimbursed by the university. Colleges then owe the university somewhere between Rs 15-20 lakh. That causes the university to stop paying their lecturers for paper evaluation and other services," Subhash claims.

Nithin, a final-year student at Maharaja College in Mysuru, claims that students are being asked to clear the past dues as well if they are to receive their marks cards after graduation. In some cases, the due amounts up to Rs 25,000. "The students are letting go of their marks cards because they are not able to afford that amount," Nithin adds. "In Mysuru's Yuvaraja College, the admission of Science students this year has decreased because the college is demanding that they pay the entire fee upfront. Students have reached out to us with this grievance and have said that their education is being curtailed," adds Subhash.

Mahantesh claims that Karnataka's State Scholarship Portal, through which students sign up for these scholarships, awards a 'Freeship' card to each scholar who has qualified for the scholarship. "Once a student gets this card, the universities are not supposed to demand fees from them. The card allows students to take admission without paying fee. However, this is not being implemented across the state. We are demanding that it should be implemented strictly," Mahantesh insists.

EdexLive tried reaching out to the Assitant Director of the Department of Social Welfare for a response on the matter, and this article will be updated accordingly. However, the Vice-Chancellor of Karnatak University, KB Gudasi, who met with the students yesterday said that the matter had been "resolved". "As per the government rules, the scholarships are being sent directly to the students' accounts. But, in some cases, the students are spending the money on their personal use and not paying the college," the VC claimed. 

When asked about a possible delay in the students getting the scholarships from the government, the VC said that in case of a delay, the university provides the students with the scholarship. The change in rules is creating some hassle, both for the college and students, and the VC said that reverting to the old rule of the scholarship money being received directly by the colleges would ease matters.

However, after the protest and the talks yesterday, girl students staying at the Kaveri Hostel of the Karnatak Science College claimed that they were called in by the Principal who "scolded" them for participating in the protest, and demanded that they pay the entire amount due, which for these students is Rs 19,000. "The students called me and they were crying. They are in dire straits. They are intimidated. Some say they will pay the amount by any means, while others say they simply cannot afford it," says Mahantesh.

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