Scholarship | Representative image (PC-Cystic Fibrosis)
The delay in disbursement of Post-Matric Scholarship for scheduled caste candidates for higher studies is leaving thousands of disadvantaged Dalit youth in the lurch.
The non-partisan PRS Legislative Research found that scholarship payment arrears mounted to 88 percent of the total budget allocated to the department by 2018, reported the Live Mint. The Parliamentary standing committees have regularly pulled up the Department of Social Justice over long-pending arrears.
Centre cuts scholarship funding for 60 lakh SC students
The Centre-state ratio for funding the scheme was 60:40. However, the terms of the formula ended in 2017. This has resulted in a heavier burden on states. Some states now have to pick up to 90 percent of the funding share for the scheme.
Following the lack of funds and delay in reimbursement by the agencies, many students are either facing uncertainty, while others are in doubt over their admissions. Institutions like Guru Nanak Dev University in Amritsar even asked students to declare that they will pay the fee if the scholarship does not arrive.
"Across the country, students have not received their scholarships as states are not able to shoulder the burden and the scheme now stands in danger of being wound up completely," the paper quoted National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights' general secretary Beena Pallical as saying.
Experts believe the consequences of the delay could be far-reaching. Jawaharlal Nehru University professor emeritus Sukhadeo Thorat stated that the scholarship programme has helped raise enrolment of SC students in higher education. With the delay in place, Dalit rights groups are becoming anxious about the fund squeeze.
On a similar note, University of Namur in Belgium's economist Guilhem Cassan stated that these funds helped raise the educational attainment among the Dalits; however, he added that the effect was much smaller at higher education levels.
Among the top 10 universities ranked by National Institute Ranking Framework, only three have filled up the 22.5 percent seats reserved for students from the scheduled castes or tribes. These include IIT (19 percent), IIMs (16 percent) and AIIMS (20 percent).
Earlier, there were reports that the Union government stopped the scholarship for more than 60 lakh scheduled caste category students of Class 11 and 12 across 14 states as per the 2017 formula.