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Bengal govt loses out on college cash

- State yet to fulfil terms three years after launch

New Delhi, Dec. 25: Bengal has missed out on central grants under a plan to set up model degree colleges because the state has not fulfilled certain requirements even three years after the scheme was launched.

Neighbours Bihar and Jharkhand, too, are among 15 laggard states not eligible for the grants under the 2010 plan aimed at establishing these model colleges with advanced facilities in 374 educationally backward districts across the country.

Sources in the human resource development ministry and higher education regulator UGC said that when the scheme was launched, the plan was the Centre would foot one-third of the proposed expenditure of Rs 8 crore for a college and the state concerned the rest.

But the response was not encouraging, apparently because of the higher 2:1 share of the expenses the states had to bear.

Former UGC secretary R.K. Chauhan said states always claimed they were going through a financial crunch. “States are implementing properly those schemes where the Centre is bearing the full cost. If there is a matching contribution from the states, they don’t take much interest,” he said.

Following the lukewarm response, the HRD ministry decided to subsume the scheme under the larger Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan launched in October this year. Under the new scheme, the Centre has to fund 75 per cent of the cost.

But to be eligible for their share of funds, states needed to fulfil certain conditions. The conditions include creation of a higher education council (Bengal is one of the few states that have higher education councils of their own), committing to bear 25 per cent of the expenses, academic reforms, filling up faculty vacancies and a 1:15 teacher-student ratio in state universities.

The states are also supposed to provide land free for these degree colleges.

“Every state has to submit an undertaking that says it would give the matching grants, initiate academic reforms and set up a higher education council. But many states have not yet fulfilled these prerequisites. So they have not got the grants,” a senior HRD ministry official said.

Apart from Bengal, Bihar and Jharkhand, the others that have missed out on the grants are Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Tripura and Uttarakhand.

After the scheme was launched, the HRD ministry had identified 374 educationally backward districts, including 17 in Bengal, 25 in Bihar, and 12 in Jharkhand.

The ministry last month gave approval for 56 new model degree colleges in 56 districts and released funds. They include 29 in Uttar Pradesh, eight each in Odisha and Karnataka, seven in Andhra Pradesh and four in Kerala. Both Andhra and Kerala have higher education councils.