J-K scholarship holders left high and dry without access to grants

  • Jeevan Prakash Sharma, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Sep 01, 2015 21:02 IST
Scholarship holders from J and K at the AICTE office enquiring about the status of their grants. Photo: Virendra Singh Gosain

The story of labourer Ghulam Mohindin Sofi, whose son scored 91% in Class 12 and secured a seat in a prestigious Delhi University (DU) college under the Prime Minister’s Special Scholarship Scheme (PMSSS) for students of Jammu and Kashmir, can move anybody to tears – except perhaps the officials of the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), the body which is implementing the PMSSS scheme.

Sofi is a daily wage labourer in Rakhshalina Taingan, a remote village in Budgam district in Kashmir which was ravaged by floods last year. Despite financial constraints and other family problems, his studious son managed to score 91% in Class 12. He won the PMSSS award early this month in AICTE’s counselling in Srinagar and came to Delhi for admission to Ramjas College, DU.

Imagine Sofi’s shock then when he was told by the college to arrange for his son’s admission fees and PG accommodation as the funds for the scholarship had not been released. “I am a very poor man. I have to sell my wife’s jewellery to arrange for Rs. 20,000. I borrowed Rs. 40,000 from relatives for the admission fee and PG accommodation, but I don’t know when my son will be given the scholarship money. He is very hard working and is desperate to continue his studies. I plead to the AICTE officials to give him the scholarship amount quickly,” Sofi told this correspondent.

Confusion rules supreme when it comes to the PMSSS – something that HT Education has been highlighting over the last few months. Not just Sofi, families of a number of scholarship winners are desperately trying to get their children admitted to colleges in DU and other institutes through PMSSS, which was launched in 2011 to ensure that 5,000 financially needy but talented students from the troubled state of J and K get grants every year to study in ‘peaceful’ cities.

What has compounded the problem for these students is that some rules of PMSSS have been changed this year. Earlier, the grant money would go directly to the institutes where the students were admitted. Now, the money is released in the students’ accounts – and it takes some time to be credited. This means colleges need ready cash for admission fee etc, which because of financial constraints, the parents cannot afford.

Avantika Dutta was refused admission last year in a DU college despite being given a provisional admission letter from AICTE. This year she won the scholarship again and was lucky enough to get economic (hons) in Guru Gobind Singh College of Commerce (GGSCC), DU. As her family was unable to pay `20,000 for the admission fee, the college principal was kind enough to accept Rs. 8,000 as admission fee, allowing her to pay the remaining amount after three months. “I had to ask friends and family for the money. Then, when I had to organise paying guest accommodation (PG) for her, her landlord asked for Rs. 14,000 as rent and advance. I managed somehow to give him Rs. 6,000 and promised to pay the remaining amount within a fortnight,” says Dutta’s mother.

As Dutta has not received her grant money even after a month of joining college, the PG owner is threatening to throw her out. Her father, an autorickshaw driver, says he has no idea how he will manage to keep her in college. “If we have three days of holidays it becomes difficult for me to even organise regular meals for the family. How will I be able to keep her in a rented accommodation,” he asks.

Another parent said he had to sell his land to get the money to fund his daughter’s stay and tuition fee. “If the scheme is meant for poor students, how will they be able to organise cash for their immediate needs of fees and accommodation?”

Though AICTE introduces new changes to the scheme to make it work better, it ends up doing just the opposite. While last year hundreds of scholarship holders lost an academic year due to complete mismanagement of the whole scheme, the situation is no better this year as well. What the students desperately need is quick disbursal of the scholarship funds to their account.

For instance, the provisional admission letter of one of the students, who got admission to a prestigious DU college on July 27, 2015, says, “The sanctioned scholarship will be credited to the bank account of the student under the DBT scheme after uploading all relevant documents on the AICTE web portal. The head of the institute will send the report of the students joined the institute latest by August 4, 2015 at AICTE portal.” Unfortunately, no provision was made in the website of AICTE till August 20 to upload the documents – making the students panic.

“What we understand is that if the college doesn’t upload the documents by August 4, then the students will not get the award money. So we had to make several visits to AICTE. Over there, we were told that we would be informed about the documents. Why is such information not provided in the provisional admission letter,” asks a student.

Scholarship dilemma?

# Changes in the PM’s Scholarship Scheme has forced students from J and K to pay admission fee from their own pockets
# AICTE has till now failed to put in place any mechanism to disburse the scholarship amount in students’ account
# No clarity on who will upload documents on AICTE website
# While provisional admission letters say that the head of the institute will submit admission reports to AICTE, the AICTE website says something else.

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