It was a rude shock for hundreds of meritorious students and their parents on Friday when they realised that they had been brought here only to be part of the audience rather than receiving scholarship cheques from Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal on the dais.
The chief minister, along with deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal and education minister Sikandar Singh Maluka, gave away replicas of cheques under Dr Hargobind Khorana Scholarship Scheme to only 21 handpicked students.
Daljit Singh Cheema, a member of the core committee of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), who compered the proceedings, told the remaining students that their scholarships had been sent to respective district education officers and the same might have already been transferred into their accounts.
"These 21 students were selected on merit basis, with 94% being the cutoff. We called 3,304 students studying in government schools from all districts of Punjab who scored more than 80% marks in the matriculation examination," said Neelam Kumar, district education officer.
Students were also kept away from the dais, with some of them even failing to get seats in the jampacked pandal.
"We left home early in the morning to reach here. Being ignored dampens the morale of students who have worked so hard to come out on top. The government should have planned the event in a sensible way," rued a parent from Mansa district.
In his speech, Badal told the students, "I wish to see double the strength of students next year scoring more than 80% marks. This unique scheme is a major initiative of the state government which will play a key role in motivating students to secure more and more marks."
Prominent among those present on the occasion included cabinet minister Ajit Singh Kohar, chief parliamentary secretaries KD Bhandari, Pawan Teenu, Avinash Chander, Inderbir Singh Bularia and Sohan Singh Thandal, MLAs Bibi Jagir Kaur, Gurpartap Singh Wadala and Pargat Singh, chairman of district planning committee, Jalandhar, GS Channi and chairman, District Planning Committee, Kapurthala, Sarabjeet Singh Makkar.
Seniormost BJP minister and Jalandhar West MLA Chunni Lal Bhagat and Jalandhar Central MLA Manoranjan Kalia were conspicuous by their absence.
Even though the scholarship is named after Nobel prize-winning scientist Dr Hargobind Khurana, the function organisers failed to print his photographs on the backdrop posters. When the media pointed it, the CM quipped, "They might have failed to arrange his photograph. His (Dr Khorana's) place is in our hearts, that's why we have named this scholarship after him."