Around 4 lakh school students from minority communities in Maharashtra were denied their pre-matric scholarship in the last academic year, because of “technical glitches” with the scholarship website, the response to a Right to Information (RTI) query has revealed.
According to the response to an RTI filed by Razaullah Khan, a school principal from Latur and an activist with the Movement for Peace and Justice (MPJ), an NGO, around 7.18 lakh students from across the state were up for the renewal of their annual pre-matric scholarship for the academic year 2015-16, but the state government received only 3.77 lakh applications, of which around 3.31 lakh were deemed eligible for the educational assistance.
The school-level scholarship — a part of the central government’s 15-point programme for minorities — was introduced to encourage parents from minority communities to send their children to school. As per the scheme, schoolchildren, whose parents’ annual income is less than Rs 1 lakh, are to get Rs 1,000 as maintenance allowance every year, in addition to Rs 500 towards admission fee and Rs 350 towards monthly tuition fee. The amount is deposited in their bank accounts through the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) mechanism.
Until 2014-15, the pre-matric scholarship was disbursed by the state government with the central government footing 75% of the expenses. In 2015-16, the distribution was moved to the National Scholarship Portal (NSP). However, many principals had a hard time filling up the applicants’ details from their school. As a result, the state decided to accept the applications offline as well.
According to officials, many schools did not provide the students with information about renewal of the scholarship even though they were up for it. Pre-matric scholarships are intended for all students who have previously received it in addition to a limited number of fresh applicants. “It was for the first time that the schools were required to upload the applications online. Some were unable to do it, others didn’t provide the data even though they were allowed to submit it offline. We will gradually overcome this problem,” said Nandan Nangare, director, Minority and Adult Education.
However, the activists blamed the lackadaisical approach of the district-level education officers for the loss. “While some schools, who must have been upset by the mess, didn’t provide the details of applicants, many didn’t reach the state government because the education officers did not forward them,” said Khan.
HT had earlier reported that, since 2009, thousands of students had not received their scholarships even though they were eligible for it.