Bhubaneswar, June 3: A failed coup at home during his UK visit might have forced chief minister Naveen Patnaik to cut short his trip and return, but he also has something to cheer about.
The UK government has formally agreed to provide an assistance of Rs 300 crore for giving incentive to girl students belonging to the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes to enable them to complete secondary education.
This was finalised during his meeting with the UK government’s minister for international development Andrew Mitchell in London on May 29.
Naveen sought the British assistance to introduce a scheme of providing stipend to the SC and ST girls studying in classes IX and X. Earlier, he had distributed free bicycles and uniform to schoolchildren.
Political observers believe that Naveen has planned the new scheme to woo the tribal and the SC voters in the upcoming elections. During the 2009 Assembly elections, Naveen had received a massive mandate for the Rs 2-per-kg-rice scheme.
An estimated 2.4 lakh SC and ST girls studying in classes IX and X would be benefited by the scheme, which aimed to facilitate completion of their secondary education, said an official source.
An annual stipend of Rs 2,000 will be paid to each SC/ST girl transiting from Class VIII to IX, while the stipend amount will be Rs 2,600 for those transiting from Class IX to X. Besides, the government will bear the transport cost of these students from their homes to schools.
The stipend for SC and ST girl students, assisted by the Department for International Development (DFID) of the UK government, has been launched in Rayagada district from the current academic session. The state government had proposed to extend the scheme to all the 30 districts from the next financial year.
Official sources said the proposal was discussed with the DFID authorities during Mitchell’s visit to Odisha earlier. It was Mitchell, who had invited Naveen to visit the UK.
The DFID has agreed in principle to fund the project till 2015-16, subject to required clearances.
The proposal had been cleared by the State-Level Project Monitoring Committee on Externally-Aided Projects and submitted to the department of economic affairs under the Union finance ministry, a senior official of the SC and ST development department told The Telegraph.
The Union tribal affairs ministry had also recommended the proposal to the department of economic affairs, the official added.
Once finalised, the scheme will be run with support from the DFID till 2015-16. The state government will take it over completely from 2016-17 and will have to bear the burden of Rs 68 crore per annum then onwards.
As part of the scheme, students attending at least 75 per cent of the school days a month would be eligible for the stipend. The scheme, known as the Conditional Cash Transfer Scheme, is aimed to bring down the high school dropout rate among the SC and ST girl students and ensure completion of their secondary education.
According to official estimates, dropout rate among the SC and ST students is more than 25 per cent in case of transition to Class IX. It is even higher for Class X.
In October last year, Naveen had launched a scheme for distributing free bicycles to Class X girl students. An estimated 2.88 lakh girl students studying in Class X in all government and government–aided schools had benefited from the scheme that costs the state exchequer Rs 75.4 crore per annum. As part of the scheme, Rs 2,600 is paid to each beneficiary through account payee cheques. Free bicycles are also being provided to boy students belonging to scheduled castes and tribes.
The state government is also providing free school uniforms to all the students up to Class VIII in the scheduled areas. At present, about 27.96 lakh girl and 8.80 lakh boy students get free uniform.