This post is a part of #JaatiNahiAdhikaar, a campaign by Youth Ki Awaaz with National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights & Safai Karamchari Andolan, to demand implementation of scholarships in higher education for SC/ST students, and to end the practice of manual scavenging. Click here to find out more.
This post is a part of JaatiNahiAdhikaar, a campaign by Youth Ki Awaaz with National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights & Safai Karamchari Andolan, to demand implementation of scholarships in higher education for SC/ST students, and to end the practice of manual scavenging. Click here to find out more.
Deepak* is the first person from his family to pursue engineering. His parents work as agricultural labourers with seasonal jobs and he has two younger sisters, still in school. Counting on the Post-Matric scholarship to meet his expenses, he had hoped for a better life for himself and his family after completing education. But just after the second year, he realised that it wasn’t going to be an easy road. His scholarship was delayed by over a year and he had to manage his fees by borrowing money. Although he did receive his scholarship money later that year, he accepts that had the delay been any longer, he’d have been forced to drop out.
Google up “Post Matric Scholarship delay” and you would find a multitude of news articles, as far back as 2015 to throughout 2020.
Being a Centrally Sponsored Scheme, there is a continuous tussle between the Centre and States about their share of contribution in it. Before 2018, 60% of the funding came from the central government, remaining from state governments. In 2018, this was changed to 10:90, that is, the Union government had to pay only 10%. This led to many states abandoning the scheme altogether.
Even at the Central level itself, a scarcity of funds plagues the scheme. A report of the Standing Committee on Social Justice and Empowerment in 2020 [Page 10/78] revealed a huge gap of around 5000 crore rupees, between the funds demanded by the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment and those allocated by the Ministry of Finance, for the scheme.
And thus, students have to face inordinate delays, even extending to 5-6 years, in availing their scholarships. In TISS, students had to resort to crowdfunding and borrowing as the institute refused to release the results and degrees because of late fee payment caused by Post-Matric Scholarship delay.
Due to fund cuts from the Centre, over 60 lakh senior school-goers from the Scheduled Caste categories were affected.
While some can continue amidst added struggles and hardship, many of these students, unable to arrange large amounts of money on their own, are forced to leave their education midway and forego, probably, their only chance for a better life.
If you think that’s an exaggeration, let’s put things in perspective. The income ceiling of Rs 2,50,000/- per year amounts to around Rs 20,000/- per month. And for a family of 4 – Rs 5,000/- per person per month. It ultimately comes out to be 170 rupees per person per day! And this is the maximum limit we are talking about.
According to the Annual Report 2019-20 of the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment (page 175/320), 60% of the beneficiaries of the Post Matric Scholarship Scheme for SCs, had family income less than Rs 50,000/- per annum – that for a family of 4, comes out to be even less than Rs 35/- per person per day!
It doesn’t help that they belong to the most marginalised communities and don’t have access to any social capital either.
The charts above, about the beneficiary data of Post Matric Scholarship Scheme for SCs [Annual Report 2019-20, Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment], show that 60% of the families had a family income less than fifty thousand rupees per annum.
Denying and delaying scholarships for these students – will simply end up pushing their families further into poverty.
And with the increasing privatisation of education and fees of government and private institutions increasing alike, students from marginalised communities will only end up being excluded from education completely.
People who oppose reservations often suggest a utopian world where everyone should be provided free education.
The post-matric scholarship is the nearest we could have got to such a reality. But its implementation shows how far away we are from it.
However, in a recent positive development, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs finally approved a 60-40 funding pattern for the PMS scheme for the centre and states.
Hopefully, this would prevent fund scarcity and scholarship delays and millions of students like Deepak can get into higher education without fearing whether they’ll be able to afford it.