Union minister of state for social justice and empowerment and Punjab Bharatiya Janata Party chief Vijay Sampla on Friday put the blame on the Punjab government for non-payment of post-matric scholarship to Scheduled Caste (SC) students.
Sampla, whose department releases funds to states for awarding the scholarship, said it is the Punjab government that had failed to distribute a major chunk of the amount recently sanctioned by the Centre.
Talking to HT, the Union minister said his department has paid Rs 173 crore to Punjab in July this year, clearing the backlog of 2013-15 and covering 30% of the amount for 2015-16 academic session.
“Department secretary Kirpa Shankar provided me these figures on Thursday when I enquired about the issue. Later, I called up Punjab finance minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa, who told me that Rs 44 crore have been released by the state government, while the remaining Rs 129 crore will also be released shortly,” said Sampla, who was here to address a press conference on proposed Adampur domestic airport.
Claiming he has expressed “deep concern” over the delay to Dhindsa, the Union minister said: “I am equally upset about the way students are protesting on the issue. I am sure the Punjab government will release the remaining amount soon.”
Questioned if the funds were being diverted to other development projects, as alleged by Congress leader Sunil Jakhar, Sampla denied it. The Punjab Youth Congress had protested on the issue outside the Vidhan Sabha on Thursday.
State BJP chief mum on Sidhu
The state BJP chief ducked repeated questions on cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu during the press conference. Asked if Sidhu, who launched Awaaz-e-Punjab front on Thursday, was still holding BJP’s primary membership, Sampla said: “I don’t think he is a primary member of the Punjab unit. I don’t know. Chaddo yaar (Leave it).”
Urging the mediapersons to “talk about other important issues”, Sampla said questions about the Sidhu couple should be posed to the party high command.