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₹3000 is Less, But At Least Baba Doesn’t Have To Clean Toilets For My Schooling

This post is a part of Kaksha Crisis, a campaign supported by Malala Fund to demand for dialogue around the provisions in the New Education Policy 2020. Click here to find out more.

The National Scheme on the Incentive to Girls for Secondary Education or NSIGSE is a scheme to promote learning. It even tries to at least retain schoolgirls of SC/ST communities till the age of 18. To avail of this scheme, the state has to open a fixed deposit account under the beneficiary’s name. Then the said beneficiary can withdraw ₹3000 with interest after she has passed Class 10 and turned 18 years.

The NSIGSE is instrumental in bringing about change in the two groups in India which are sorely underrepresented – women and the oppressed (SC/ST) communities. The scheme, which was started originally in 2008, has helped as a stepping stone towards higher education amongst the schoolgirls of the SC/ST community.

Girl Student in Classroom

Mandi, our hostel caretaker’s daughter, is currently enrolled at a local Engineering college, gets a monthly stipend, and simultaneously prepares for a regular salaried Government job. None of this would have happened if it was not for the ₹3000 that saved her and her parents and siblings from the verge of financial ruin. With a mixed feeling, she recalls, “Yes, ₹3000 is extremely less, but at least baba does not have to go about cleaning the public toilets. You see… for this monetary help; even, I was not married off to that Hela boy who is a tobacco seller.” (Hela is a sub-caste of Dalit).

One might certainly argue that ₹3000 is a small amount in today’s terms. However, often, that small amount is the only thing standing between a young schoolgirl’s education and her marriage; or at large between a humane life and a stigmatized life of drudgery!

However, Sulekha, our local night guard’s niece, also a Dalit, has not been too fortunate enough. With a meagre amount coming into the family, with both her parents working as daily wage labourers, educating all four children was not easy. Sulekha being the eldest, is distraught as her parents have decided to pull her out of her school and get her married off to a local carpenter. This is what many parents of schoolgirls decide to do – marry off their girls to lessen the burden on themselves.

Although the mindset of many parents was changing, the recent pandemic has struck a huge blow to their finances. To add to the already miserable condition of the SC/ST, the government has decided to do the very opposite. According to reports, redesigning the total budget, the scheme which was granted a sum of ₹100 Crores, has now been reduced to a paltry amount of one crore only.

The oppressed castes routinely face all sorts of discrimination. Untouchability is rampant, and so is segregation. A quick search on the internet reveals staggering statistics. There are many different forms of atrocities that are happening in India every minute, where people are regularly threatened, looted, and even murdered. Worse still are the crimes that are committed against women. The already marginalized community of the SC/STs also becomes more vulnerable for the SC/ST girls. They are doubly-ostracised.

SC/ST girls face harassment both from within their community as well as from outside. Sending these girls to school opens up floodgates of possibilities for them that they would otherwise have not known. Also, it inspires other girls around them into a path of education and helps them financially.

The NSIGSE empowers schoolgirls by having a bank account, which is a great marker of success. Wait! What is the use of a bank account if there is no money in it?

According to The NSIGSE Scheme website, the scheme “is being redesigned to implement it more effectively,” and that is being relocated to the National Scholarship Portal. It does not address the core issue at hand – of how the funds got so drastically reduced.

Moreover, most girls pass Class 10 around the age of 15, and they have to wait three years to get these funds. Another issue, due to poor lack of knowledge, is that many people are not very well versed with the system of banks and may not be even aware that such a scheme even exists.

Given that our government is spending large amounts of money, it must also make sure that the money reaches the correct hands at the end. Moreover, the extra-oppression of being an SC/ST girl further increases when she happens to belong to the lower sub-caste of the Dalit hierarchy!

It is important to understand that the bare minimum scholarship is not always sufficient for the students. The added expenses of procuring reference books and a phone or a laptop (owing to the pandemic) have made the condition all the more miserable with the little scholarship amount. With an increase in the scholarship amount, there need to be more incentives as well. This will help more oppressed castes’ girls to get the opportunity to study and live a decent life.

The government must take note of all these problems and address these problems effectively. If these girls grow up and inspire positive conversations, then the entire society will benefit from it.

Featured image courtesy of Hridayam 2020 | Flickr


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