Pawar Rukmini Sonu’s journey from Goa’s Margaon to Delhi hasn’t been easy.
“Initially we thought won’t attend the event, but when we learnt we’ll be given travel allowance, we borrowed money from our neighbours to come here,” said Sonu. She is one of the 270 meritorious students from the Scheduled Caste who were awarded Dr Ambedkar National Merit Awards at Vigyan Bhawan on Friday.
Awards were given to the three top scorers in the senior secondary (Class XII) examinations conducted by state education boards. The student who scored the highest in a state was awarded Rs 60,000 while the second and third highest scorers were awarded Rs 50,000 and Rs 40,000 respectively. Three girl students from each state were given special scholarships of Rs 20,000 each.
Sonu, the daughter of a daily wager, was awarded Rs 20,000 under the special scholarship for her performance in the Class XII exams. But she has stopped studying. “I’m very keen to pursue BCA (Bachelor in Computer Applications) but can’t,” she said, adding she couldn’t afford the course.
“Though I’m happy with the scholarship, this money isn’t enough for me to continue with my studies,” she said.
Sawant Vanita Ashok, daughter of an auto-rickshaw driver from Goa, is luckier.
The second-year BCA student said: “I have been awarded Rs 50,000 for coming second in the science stream. This will help me study further.”
Many like Sonu and Ashok came from far-off regions of 17 states, with similar tales of struggle, to attend the event. Union Minister for Social Justice Mukul Wasnik, chairman of Dr Ambedkar Foundation that presented the awards, attended.
“We are very proud of your achievements and this award is a recognition of the hardships you have faced to reach this far,” Wasnik told the students.
Balakrishnan P, from Ottapalam in Kerala, perhaps embodies the struggle and hardship Wasnik spoke about. Balakrishnan, who won a scholarship of Rs 60,000 for topping the arts stream, doesn’t have a father. “My mother, a farmer, is the sole breadwinner. This money will definitely help me study further,” he said.
For Krima Bhaumik, on her first trip to Delhi, it is time to celebrate. Her primary schoolteacher father Ranjit Kumar Bhaumik said: “I have struggled to bring up my three children, but am proud that Krima won a scholarship of Rs 20,000.”
So does she like Delhi?
“I haven’t seen much but we'll stay for two more days to see the city,” said the excited girl from Bahabardalani village in Morigaon district of Assam.
But for Sonu and Ashok it is time to go back.
“We would love to see Delhi, but staying in this big city requires a lot of money. We need to pay back the borrowed money,” Sonu said.