“Scholarship”. Most of you will think of this word only while talking about leading universities such as Oxford, Harvard, etc. But, a majority of ST/SC students will think about this word while talking about every educational institution; however small it may be. You name the cheapest educational institution in India, and most of the SC/ST students will not be able to study there without scholarships. Let that sink in.
First of all, for most of the ST/SC students, education is still a distant dream. We hardly think beyond engaging in farming, scavenging, sweeping, etc.
According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI)’s global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), 2018, every second person belonging to the Scheduled Tribes and every third person belonging to the Scheduled Castes remains poor.
Now just imagine for a second that you belong to the ST/SC community. As such, there is hopelessness because you belong to that community, and people discriminate you in every possible way. There is no choice but to accept the fate, which you automatically inherit by being born in these communities. And after fighting all the odds, you are a few of those brave ones who have gathered the courage to take up higher studies—only because the government is ready to bear the expenses of your studies. Sounds like a win-win situation, right? You are happy because you are going to be the first person from your circle to take up higher studies.
Now, after taking admission in an educational institution, you are also dealing with problems like casteism, classism, etc. There are certain characteristics which have become a part of the ‘genes’ of your community like nervousness, shyness, lack of confidence, poor soft skills and what not! Now, after all these hardships, you get to know that you won’t be receiving your scholarship funds, after all. What would you do? And how would you feel?
Well, this is what ST/SC students go through when the Post-Matric scholarship funds do not arrive for them. What you imagined now is nothing, not even 1% of what ST/SC students experience in reality.
While talking about the objectives of the scholarship scheme for SC/ST students, the Finance Minister, in his budget speech on the Union Budget 2005-06, acknowledged that the primary objective of providing scholarships is the empowerment of SC/ST youth through quality education.
Obviously, this will give hope to thousands of SC/ST students, and they will finally see a ray of hope, but little do they know that this will eventually prove to be a hollow dream. There are statistics to prove that the scholarship schemes are not being implemented fully and properly.
The memories of Rohith Vemula are still afresh in everyone’s mind. The Quint brought some disheartening real-life experiences of ST/SC students in an article: Dhanraj Das, a Third-year Dalit, has eaten rice and boiled potatoes for every meal for two years because his scholarship did not arrive after he started his Geography (Honours) course at Brahmdev Singh Sumitra Mahavidyalay, in Nawada district, Bihar. This is just one of the thousands of instances where ST/SC students are made to suffer like this.
On August 02, 2018, the government had said that they would clear arrears for SC/ST scholarship within that financial year. But it’s 2020, and we have got nothing except that between 2014-15 and 2019-20, the share of education expenditure in the total Union budget fell from 4.1% to 3.4%. This means that the scholarship fund would also be reduced.
Let’s go through some more facts. The demands for scholarship increased but the number of beneficiaries have decreased from 5.8 million in 2016-17 to 3.3 million in 2018-19, a 43% reduction! Can you believe this?! What exactly happened within one year?
I mean seriously, What is going on?
The government cannot take such an important issue lightly. This “indifference” is crushing somebody’s dreams, somebody’s hopes and even somebody’s soul.
Feature image for representation only.