A Tribal Affairs ministry circular not allowing Schedule Tribe (ST) students to seek full reimbursement of fees paid to the private institutes has irked the Planning Commission, resulting in intervention being sought from the Prime Minister’s Office.
The ministry, a few months ago, issued a circular to all state governments regarding the Centre’s post-matric scholarship scheme for tribal students. The ministry made it clear that tribal students can seek reimbursement paid to private institutes equivalent to fees paid for the same course in a government institution.
It meant that the refund, for example for an engineering course for a tribal student, would be same irrespective of whether the student is in private or government institute.
All was fine with the change till Planning Commission took exception to the decision. The commission is of the view that the ministry cannot take the decision unilaterally as a similar scheme for Scheduled Caste (SC) students is run by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
Under the post matric scholarship scheme for SC students, entire fees is refunded, irrespective of whether the student is in government or private institute. Both the schemes are applicable for economically weaker section, as only those whose parents annual income is less than Rs one lakh are eligible to avail the scheme.
A fall out of the Tribal Affairs ministry decision is that now there is a disparity between a similar affirmative action scheme for SC and ST students by the government, felt a commission official. The commission has apparently also objected to the ministry not seeking an in principle approval from it before issuing the circular.
In a response to the Principal Advisor in the commission Chandra Pal’s objections, Meena Gupta, secretary Tribal Affairs ministry, explained that the amendment was necessary as public money was going into the private hands.
It was also pointed out the full reimbursement was being taken as an incentive to take admission in private institutes. She was not available for comments when contacted by HT.
Other ministry officials, however, said that tribal students would not suffer as most of the students covered under the scheme are in government run institutes.
Now, the commission has asked Prime Minister’s Office to intervene and restore parity. Earlier this week Planning Commission member Balachandra Mungerkar dashed off a letter to Tribal Affairs Minister PR Kyndiah urging him to reverse the decision. No decision on reversal has been taken, a ministry official said on Friday.