From the next academic year, college students in the state will get money under various fee reimbursement schemes directly deposited in their bank accounts.
The government has decided to disburse the money through direct transfer benefit (DBT) mechanism by depositing it into Aadhar-linked bank accounts of beneficiaries in the form of scholarships, instead of reimbursing their respective institutes. The DBT mechanism, initiated in accordance with the Maharashtra Aadhar Act 2016, aims at timely disbursement of the money and putting a curb on malpractices in the implementation of government schemes.
On Saturday, the state issued a government resolution (GR) introducing DBT for two schemes run by its higher and technical education department - Rajarshi Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj Shikshan Shulk Shishyavrutti Yojana, under which 50% fees of economically backward class (EBC) students pursuing professional courses is reimbursed, and Dr Punjabrao Deshmukh Vastigruh Nirvah Bhatta Yojna, under which children of small farmers and labours receive a hostel allowance. The government will soon include other schemes for disadvantaged students in this list.
"These are the first in the series of schemes which will be brought under the ambit of direct transfers. Other state government departments running fee benefit schemes such as social justice and special assistance, tribal development and medical education and research departments, will come with their own GRs within a week," said Sitaram Kunte, principal secretary, higher and technical education department.
Currently, only a few schemes for students, such as the central government's pre-matric and post-matric scholarship schemes, are implemented through DBT.
According to the GR, the EBC students are required to maintain a minimum of 50% , to be eligible for scholarship. The colleges will have to keep a track of students’ attendance through an Aadhar-linked biotmetric system.
The students will receive their annual scholarship in two instalments, one in each of the two semesters of an academic year. It mandates that the first instalment comes before August 31, while the second is deposited by January 31. The institutes cannot ask the beneficiaries to pay the fees before money is deposited in their accounts.
The state government, however, is notorious for delaying the payments to beneficiaries. Last year, HT had reported that the three government departments owed over Rs 2000 crore to technical colleges. "We have told the finance department that success of this scheme will depend on the continuous flow of money," said a state government official.
The colleges fear that they will continue bearing the brunt of delay in money disbursement. “The students won’t pay us until they get scholarship from the government. And if a student decides to drop-out of the college after receiving the money, we will be at loss. The government is duplicating the work by directly transferring money to students,” said Kalim Khan, director, Rizvi Institute of Management Studies and Research in Bandra.
The activists are also not sure if DBT will improve scholarship delivery in the state. “The government is unable to provide the benefits under existing schemes such as Deendayal Upadhay Swayam Yojana, which provides hostel and food facilities to tribal students, on time, and post-matric scholarship scheme on time. As a result, the students have to suffer,” said Priyadarshi Telang, convenor, Dalit Adivasi Adhikar Andolan, a Pune-based organisation.