On September 3, Union home minister Rajnath Singh assured Kashmiri students enrolled in various universities across the country that their grievances regarding the release of scholarships under the Prime Minister’s Special Sponsorship Scheme (PMSSS) would be addressed soon.
A month has gone by, but Kashmiri students in Jaipur are yet to get their due.
“When 25 of us met him, he assured us of a positive response within seven days. It’s been over a month now,” said Mohammed Taqi, a student of the Suresh Gyan Vihar University.
Students from the state had also met officials of the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), the body responsible for disbursing the scholarships, on September 8. They reportedly took note of their problems.
Launched by the Manmohan Singh government in 2011 following the previous year’s unrest in the state, the PMSSS was aimed at encouraging Kashmiri youth to shun terrorism and avail of educational opportunities in the mainland.
The scheme aims to provide financial support to 5,000 Kashmiri students every year. The annual monetary support comes up to Rs 90,000 for hostel residence, Rs 10,000 for incidentals and stationery, and anywhere between Rs 30,000 and Rs 3 lakh for the degree itself.
The multi-crore scheme, however, has been in the news for benefitting far fewer students than the specified number of 5,000. Although 3,742 students were allotted colleges in the 2015-16 session, only 1,200 (or 30%) took up the offer. The situation was similar in 2014-15, with just 700 of the 2,100 students who were allotted colleges warming up to the opportunity.
Malik Imtiyaz, a Kashmiri activist who obtained information through RTIs, said the scheme should have benefitted 25,000 students by its fifth year. However, less than half that number has made the cut until now.
There have been instances of certain students being allotted bogus colleges, and all-women institutions being earmarked for male students. On other occasions, the allotted colleges did not take the provisional admission letter seriously – instead asking the students to deposit the fee in advance.
The AICTE, however, says it can only give scholarships to “eligible” students. “We can’t help those who have taken admission on their own in courses that aren’t approved by the AICTE, or those who don’t figure in merit lists. Our job starts and ends at implementation, and we are bound by rules,” said Prof Anil Sahasrabuddhe, AICTE chairman.
He maintained that the body has helped students who brought incongruencies in the admission process to its notice. “In addition, we have reprimanded the colleges that asked students to deposit fees at the time of admission. They have been instructed to admit the students, and not harass them till the scholarship is released,” Sahasrabuddhe said.