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Scholarship mess for Valley students

New Delhi, April 1: Ummar Rasheed Yattoo is praying for his scholarship money to be released soon. The young man from Kashmir wants to go back to college and keep alive his ambition of becoming a pharmacist.

The BPharm student had enrolled with the Swift Group of Colleges in Patiala, Punjab, after an NGO had encouraged him to study under the Prime Minister’s Special Scholarship Scheme for students from Jammu and Kashmir.

That was in 2012. Two years on, he is back home in his village in Baramulla district, unsure of what the future holds.

He has been removed from the hostel and his college has asked Yattoo, the eldest among four children of a day labourer, to pay Rs 2 lakh for the last two years or forget about studying pharmacy.

“Now I am not doing anything. I don’t have the money. I cannot study elsewhere as my original certificates are with the college,” he said from his village, Pattan.

No Swift Group official was available for comment. Neither has any help come so far from either the NGO or the central government.

Yattoo isn’t the only student from Kashmir staring at an uncertain fate. Hundreds like him, at various institutes in the country, are facing harassment, mainly because of mistakes by private colleges in filling up application forms and delays in submitting utilisation certificates of funds released under the scholarship scheme.

Faraz Bashir, from Pulwama, had enrolled for BTech with the Savera Group of Institutions in Gurgaon. “The college has asked me to pay Rs 1.2 lakh a year for the last two years. My father runs a small shop,” Bashir said. “Where do I get the money from?”

Bashir was among 36 aspiring techies from the Valley who had taken admission in the Gurgaon college the same year Yattoo had joined the BPharm course in Patiala. Today, all of them are in the same boat.

Unlike Yattoo, however, Bashir has not been asked to go back home.

According to the scheme, announced by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2011, 5,000 students from Kashmir were to be given scholarships every year to pursue higher studies in any institution outside the state. The plan was to ensure that youths from Kashmir get quality education and help in national integration.

While NGOs were told to create awareness about the scheme, the human resource development ministry asked technical education regulator AICTE to handle the execution.

The AICTE asked the colleges to fill up details of every student admitted under the scheme. The scholarship money was to be given after verifying the details.

Zakir Hussain, executive director of the Savera Group of Institutions in Gurgaon, said the institute had in 2012 committed an error in filling the application forms. “Our clerical staff submitted the application forms suggesting they had been admitted under the management quota. We took it up with the AICTE saying they had been put under the management quota by mistake. Yet the scholarship money has not come.”

A senior official of another institute, which had admitted 32 students under the scheme, said the AICTE had later introduced a condition that capped the number of such students in an institute at five. “There was no limit on the number of students under the scheme initially. Now, they are putting a limit and stopping scholarships to eligible students.”

AICTE chairperson S.S. Mantha said genuine students wouldn’t be victimised. He said if the colleges, which claim to have shown that some of these students were mistakenly admitted under the management quota, “submit documents to show… the students were actually admitted under the general category, such students will get the scholarship”.

Mantha also said funds for the scheme had not been released for the 2012 batch as most institutions had not submitted utilisation certificates for the money released the previous year.

About the cap on the number of students, Mantha said each institution had been asked to transfer surplus students to other colleges. “The idea is national integration. If a hundred students are admitted in one institute, that institute may benefit. But more institutions should get such students.”