In April last year, Srinagar's Uzma Hassan landed in Punjab with the dream of pursuing an engineering degree under the Prime Minister's Special Scholarship Scheme (PMSSS). The 20-year-old girl got a rude shock when she saw that the institution where she got admission, Cambridge College of Engineering, about 35 km from here, lacked hostels, labs, proper faculty and regular transport service.
Uzma's case is not an isolated one. About 80 students from Jammu and Kashmir, who came to Punjab for higher education under the PMSSS, have been left in the lurch by the Punjab Technical University (PTU)-affiliated college in Fatehgarh Sahib district. These students are keen on migration, but the college has allegedly refused to return their original school-level certificates, besides keeping Rs. 25,000 taken from each student as security deposit.
The campus wore a deserted look when the HT team paid a visit on Tuesday. The team was not allowed to enter the premises on the pretext that the college authorities did not want to talk to the media. A handful of students narrated their woes to the media, alleging that they were made to stay in various localities of SAS Nagar and Chandigarh in the absence of a hostel on the campus.
"During the past year or so, our studies have been very erratic. The bus service has also been irregular," said Sumiya Jaan, who hails from Anantnag.
The north-western regional office of the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), which is responsible for implementing the scheme for J&K students in colleges of Punjab, expressed its helplessness.
"The matter is between the institution and the students," said AICTE's northern region director Rajiv Gulati. When asked how much scholarship money had been paid to the college, he said he needed to check it with the council's headquarters in New Delhi.
When contacted, the Punjab Technical University (PTU) authorities agreed that the students had approached them for migration. Dr Buta Singh, dean, academics, PTU, told HT that he had been apprised of the matter and would soon send a team for an inspection of the college.
On the future of the students, he said PTU would do its best to accommodate them in other colleges under the scheme.
The Jammu and Kashmir Coaching Centres Association (JKCCA) had demanded a high-level probe into the implementation of the scheme, dubbing it a "big scam at the cost of poor students" from their state.
Besides Srinagar and Anantnag, the students hail from Shopian, Kupwara, Baramulla, Rajouri, Kishtwar, Pulwama, Udhampur, Ladakh and Leh areas of J&K.
* The union ministry of human resource and development (MHRD) launched the Prime Minster's Special Scholarship Scheme (PMSSS) in 2011 to enable poor students of Jammu and Kashmir to pursue undergraduate courses in institutions outside their state.
* A J&K domicile student is eligible under PMSS if his or her family's income is less than Rs. 6 lakh per annum
* The Centre grants Rs. 1.25 lakh as tuition fee and Rs. 1 lakh for hostel facility for each engineering student to institutions which admit students from J&K under the PMSSS; a medical student annually gets Rs. 3 lakh as tuition fee and Rs1 lakh for hostel facility
* Each student of general studies annually gets Rs. 30,000 (tuition fee) and Rs. 1 lakh (hostel facility).
* The annual budget allocation under the scheme is Rs. 1,200 crore.