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Post-Matric Scholarships: Why Are Girls From SC, ST and OBC Communities Underrepresented In Institutions?

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.

“Being in a girls college of a central university, in my undergrad class of 60 students, not more than 20 students are from marginalised communities.”

A report of the All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) 2016-17 reveals that the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in higher educational institutions for women at the all-India level is 24.5%, whereas for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes females, the ratio is 20.2% and 14.2% respectively. It clearly shows the lesser representation of women from marginalised communities in higher educational institutions. There are various reasons for it as women of these communities fight the double oppression of caste and gender together as compared to women coming from the so-called upper caste, privileged background.

First, they face several types of discrimination in their personal spheres because of gender bias, have to prove themselves in several fields, and then make themselves enter these institutions. The most constant problem is finance. In higher institutions, fees have been increasing year-by-year. Institutions of higher education such as the Indian Institute of Technology, Indian Institute of Mass Communication, All India of Medical Sciences and some central universities have raised their fees. 

According to a report by Newsclick.in, “The fee of IITs has  been increased twice in the last two years. Recently, a 900% hike in fee for M.Tech courses was announced by the Council of IITs. The tuition fees, which was between Rs 20,000-50,000, was increased to Rs 2 lakh.”

India Today reported on December 19, 2019, that fee for IIMC has been increased by over 100% across journalism courses and regional language courses respectively over the past decade.

These have been some instances of fees hike in higher education institutions. Students coming from marginalised communities can’t afford such an amount of fees, so the dropout ratio has also increased. According to Sudarshan Kasbe in Criticaledges.com, ”Out of the total students enrolled for higher education, those from scheduled castes and scheduled tribes accounted for 14.89% and 5.53% respectively.” 

Even in my university, the University of Delhi, among students admitted to the undergraduate courses in 2019, more than 60% students belong to the unreserved category. Compared to this, only 3% students each have been admitted under the ST and Economic Weaker Sections (EWS) categories for which a reservation of 7.5% and 10% has been allotted, according to the university’s bulletin of information.

Among Scheduled Caste students, while 15% reservation has been allotted, only 10.94% students have been given admission. On the other hand, for Other Backward Castes (OBC), for whom 27% has been allotted, 20.96% students have been admitted.

This is the data of all students together from the SC, ST and OBC category in Delhi University, but there is no recorded data that mentions women students from these three reserved sections. This is another reality they don’t want to reveal about higher institutions as if it would reveal how they aren’t fully implementing reservation in institutions to people.

To increase the GER of students from marginalised communities, the government waives the fees of such students, provides scholarships as well to increase their participation, giving them opportunities for their representation. 

One beneficiary student of my college (a girls college) from such scholarship schemes stated: “For higher studies, students from marginalised communities get post-matric scholarships from the central government that begin from Class 11 and go on till one wants to study.”

Furthermore, they talked about problems that students face in accessing these schemes that they find hectic. And what is even more effortful is finding scholarship schemes by themselves on Google and then applying for such schemes. Colleges notify about this scheme to the students in the middle of the semester when they are overburdened with loads of assignments. Students get puzzled in such situations — whether to write assignments first or knock the door of the administration again and again to ask about the particulars while filling scholarship forms.

I also got to know that colleges do provide scholarships, but only on the basis of merit and to fewer students who are also not-so-strong financially and they are from or can be of any category. 

Representative image.

Generally, students have to make so much effort to get these scholarships — they fill forms without any parental help, they travel to their cities as the various forms are to be attached with scholarship forms that the administration doesn’t ask at a time but in layers of time. In the administration office, there is only one desk for such stuff, and a lot of students to fill such forms. A lot of their time is taken, which affects their studies as well. Students also have to confirm as well about their forms acceptance.

Teachers just go away with “contact that mam, contact this sir,” but don’t help with their own. With such a hectic, time-taking procedure that these students go through, these institutions judge us on economic basis and discriminate us on the basis of caste. 

They talk about reservation and fee waiver only on an economic basis. In my experience, I don’t get any fee relaxation in my college. I pay as much as any other student from the unreserved category. This is because my economic condition is noticed first. However, I got to listen taunts about reservation and my caste identity. 

These scholarship schemes give little support to women from marginalised communities, but not so much. A few thousand rupees in a year or month can’t support an individual in institutions with high fee and an economy in inflation. According to Protiva Kundu in Indiaspend.com, “Between 2014-15 and 2019-20, the share of education expenditure in the total union budget has  fallen from 4.1% to 3.4%.”

It is clearly showing that whatever little help these scholarships were giving to students from marginalised communities is being taking away from them by the current regime. These are collective efforts by this system to maintain the hierarchy of caste system in which people from marginalised sections don’t get education. 

Another report on January 31, 2020 by Provita Kundu stated that, “In the number of beneficiary students of Post-matric scholarship scheme across India, SC students has been consistently under funded, beneficiaries decreased from 5.8 million in 2016-17 to 3.3 million in 2018-19.” 

Women from marginalised communities in such higher educational institutions are fighting against Brahminism, casteism and elitism together in their daily lives. On how many costs can we make up to these institutions that offer us discrimination in return?

Note: The author is part of the current batch of the Jaati Nahi, Adhikaar Writer’s Training Program. Head here to know more about the program and to apply for an upcoming batch!

This post is part of theJaati Nahi, Adhikaar Writers' Training Program, 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 and apply.

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