Around 3.5 lakh Scheduled Caste (SC) students studying in about 2,000 educational institutes of Punjab can now expect to get the post-matric scholarship under a centrally-sponsored scheme within the next six weeks.
The statement was made by Anurag Agarwal, secretary, department of welfare of Scheduled Castes and Backward Classes, Punjab, before the Punjab and Haryana high court on Wednesday.
Agarwal informed the division bench headed by chief justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul that the state government had received central assistance of Rs. 280.81 crore on November 6. As per the scheme, the state government is required to make the payment of scholarship into the bank accounts of the students/institutions through the online banking system.
After the state government's submissions, the court, while disposing of two public interest litigations, directed the state authorities to file the compliance report in January as to whether the amount had reached the students as per the scheme.
Taking a serious view of the facts, the high court, on the earlier date of hearing, had observed, "that the issue is being treated as a tennis ball being thrown from one court to another." The court had made it clear that if the matter was not sorted out, a joint secretary-rank officer of the central government would remain present in the court.
The petitions filed by the Association of Volunteers for Students' Rights (AVSR), Chandigarh, and Jaspal Singh had sought directions to the Punjab government to strictly implement the post-matric scholarship scheme.
The Centre had come out with the scheme, as per which SC students, whose parents' income does not exceed Rs. 2 lakh per annum, are eligible for scholarship after matriculation. The Centre's grant for the scheme cannot be utilised by the state government for any other purpose.
The state government had on July 11, 2007, issued directions to all educational institutions in the state that they would not charge fee and all non-refundable charges covered under the scheme from students. Rather, it is to be reimbursed from the state department of SC welfare.
However, the petitioners asserted that most of the educational institutes in the state, including universities, were charging fee from SC students covered under the scheme. In case any student fails to deposit the fee on the spot, the seat is filled with the next candidate on the waiting list, it was informed. The petitioners had also sought directions from the court to various universities to also advertise in their prospectus about the scheme so that eligible students could get its benefit.