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Funds to pull students out of confines

Calcutta, March 2: Undergraduates, get ready to unlearn! The University Grants Commission proposes to take you out of classrooms and into the public domain.

The commission has reserved a substantial amount under the Tenth Plan for 300 undergraduate colleges in the state to engage students in various social activities. The new scheme is meant to engage students in activities that involve helping people in their neighbourhood with education, health, legal and social problems.

Officials in the higher education department described the UGC move as the only one of its kind in recent years. The activities planned under the new scheme are varied, they added.

In the past, the commission gave funds to colleges and universities mostly for academic matters, the officials said.

Some of the main activities planned by the UGC include organising blood donation camps, literacy campaigns and awareness programmes on quick disposal of matrimonial and property-related legal disputes and need-based community development schemes.

Students of a particular college may be asked to visit every household of the area to educate people on how to prevent the spread of gastro-enteritis if there is an outbreak in the neighbourhood, said Pratip Choudhury, an official of the state higher education council.

The scheme suggests different activities for students of various streams. For instance, they could be asked to organise camps and visit people of the locality to advise them on ways for quick and easy disposal of matrimonial and property-related legal disputes.

The commission has earmarked Rs 50,000 for each college in the initial stages, higher education officials said. “The initial allotment may be stretched to a much higher amount if the colleges are found to be performing well,” an official added.

The commission has already sent specific guidelines to the colleges for proper utilisation of the funds and also warned the institutions of stern action if they failed to use the money within the prescribed deadline.

Moreover, in a departure from earlier practice, the commission has decided to release the funds under the scheme directly to the colleges. Such grants were earlier released to the state government for disbursal among the institutions.

Under the scheme, students would be required to visit slums and other high-density settlements of poor residents to start literacy campaigns.

For colleges in rural areas, the commission has emphasised on village adoption schemes. According to the guidelines, colleges may pick up a particular village and undertake a comprehensive development programme for its uplift, including improvement of roads, tube-well-digging, motivating the women on health and child-care.

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