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Policy Dive: The mechanics of a student scholarship

Every year, the union ministry of social justice and empowerment allots scholarship money under pre-matric and post-matric schemes to SC, ST and OBC students. The ministry has now tweaked the scheme to allow scholarships to be paid directly in the bank or post office accounts of students.

india Updated: May 31, 2018 08:00 IST
Smriti Kak Ramachandran
Smriti Kak Ramachandran
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
student scholarship,OBC,scheduled caste
Students from SC/ST communities stage a dharna for their pending demands in Bhopal. (Mujeeb Faruqui/HT File Photo)

The union ministry of social justice and empowerment has modified the rules for grant of money to those eligible for the post- matriculation scholarships given to scheduled caste (SC), scheduled tribe (ST) and other backward class (OBC) students. Instead of transferring the money to educational institutions, the government will pay the money directly to students.

Issue

Every year, the ministry allots scholarship money under pre-matric and post-matric schemes to SC, ST and OBC students. The sums of money vary according to the course of study, and eligibility criteria includes the income of their parents. Students enrolled in institutions across India are eligible. These are centrally sponsored schemes implemented through governments of states and union territories with the objective of providing financial assistance to students from weaker sections.

The scholarship money covers maintenance allowance, reimbursement of compulsory non-refundable fees, study tour charges, thesis typing charges for research scholars, and a book allowance for students pursuing correspondence courses.

The ministry has tweaked the scheme to allow scholarships to be paid directly in the bank or post office accounts of students. These have to be linked to their Aadhaar numbers. This has been done to ensure that the money reaches the beneficiaries and institutions cannot make false claims of not having received the money. Institutions have also been asked to ensure that at least 50% of the beneficiaries pass their exams, failing which they will be blacklisted.

Significance

According to officials in the ministry, the changes were made after it was brought to the government’s notice that some educational institutions had been pocketing the scholarship money by showing fake admissions. In some cases, the institutions would admit students, claim the money and then not follow up on the progress of the students. Tweaking the policy to ensure that the allowance and the non refundable fee will now be credited directly to the students’ account is an attempt to put an end to such malpractices, an official explained.

Earlier, the scholarship amount was released by the states; and the fee amount was credited to institution while the maintenance amount was given to the students.

The issue is important because it affects thousands of students from marginalised communities. At a time when the government is confronting unrest among sections of Dalits, in particular, getting the mechanics of the scholarships right is important.

Debate

The change in policy has been welcomed on the grounds that it will check the misuse of money by unscrupulous institutions, but concern is also being expressed over its implementation. A few institutions and scholars, in their feedback to the ministry, have pointed out that the revision means students will now have to pay fees upfront while seeking admission.

They have expressed concern that if students are not able to raise money to pay the fees, the institutions might deny them admission. The ministry, on its part, has underlined that the process will allow for greater transparency in registration, verification of eligibility credentials and weed out fake admissions and wrongful claims by institutions.

It has also clarified that the scheme will be monitored routinely and state and union territory governments will frame procedures for periodic and timely release of scholarship amounts, including fees ,to ensure that it works.

First Published: May 31, 2018 08:00 IST