The National Scheduled Castes Alliance (NSCA) has welcomed the decision taken by the Centre and the state governments to release grants under the post-matric scholarship scheme for Scheduled Caste (SC) students.
The Centre has released Rs 281 crore meant for Scheduled Castes pending for the past two-and-a-half-years under the post-matric scholarship scheme sponsored by the Centre.
Besides, the Punjab government's share of about Rs 61 crore has also been released.
"The NSCA welcomes the decision taken by the Centre and the state governments," Paramjit Singh Kainth, president of the NSCA, said.
"To ensure that the release of funds is done in time in future, the accountability should be fixed. Each year there have been 1.5 lakh beneficiaries for the scholarships. But now the number of SC students has gone up to almost 4.50 lakh," Kainth said.
"The post-matric scholarship scheme was launched by the Centre in 1998. But it is unfortunate that the 34 elected SC members of the assembly belonging to Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress did not raise their voice on the serious issue even when the academic future of lakhs of SC students was at stake," Kainth said, who had approached the National Schedule Caste Commission for release of grant forcing the government to give undertaking on the issue.
"Just imagine how many SC students must have given up hopes on higher education in the past three years," Kainth said.
Over the years the SAD and the Congress had systematically smothered the genuine SC leadership in the state, he said,
"The total pending amount for the past three years was about Rs 427 crore. There are many other schemes for Scheduled Castes which remain only on paper. In some schemes money has even been diverted," the NSCA president added.