Dalits fear stipend squeeze

Experts and community bodies also slammed the government for claiming an increase in the overall allocation for the SC/ST communities

  • Published 3.02.19, 2:20 AM
  • Updated 3.02.19, 2:20 AM
  • 2 mins read
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Stand-in finance minister Piyush Goyal has allocated Rs 2,927 crore for the scholarships, down from Rs 3,000 crore allotted in the budget last year. Telegraph file picture

The government has allocated less money to fund scholarships for Dalit students in its interim budget tabled on Friday, prompting fears that the reduced amount might force thousands of community youths out of higher education because of delayed payment of stipends.

Experts and community bodies also slammed the government for claiming an increase in the overall allocation for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.

The post-matriculation scholarship for Scheduled Castes benefits approximately 57 lakh students across the country. Those with a parental income of less than Rs 2.5 lakh a year get this scholarship to pursue higher studies, with the monthly stipend ranging between Rs 230 and Rs 1,200 depending on the course.

Stand-in finance minister Piyush Goyal has allocated Rs 2,927 crore for the scholarships, down from Rs 3,000 crore allotted in the budget last year.

If the additional Rs 3,000 crore allocated in the revised budget last year is taken into account, the allotment for 2019-20 becomes less than half the amount set aside in 2018.

The government had to come up with the additional funding to clear arrears of Rs 6,900 crore that had accumulated since 2012-13. Despite the additional funding, the arrears have not been cleared.

Vijay Sampla, junior minister for social justice and empowerment, had assured the Rajya Sabha in August last year that the arrears would be cleared by March 2019. The dues are around Rs 4,000 crore now, said Abhay Xaxa, a functionary of the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights.

The NCDHR and independent expert P.S. Krishnan called for higher allocation for the scholarship. “The funding for the scholarship matters a lot for Dalit students. The allocation has declined despite pending arrears. This will delay the payment of stipend to lakhs of students,” Xaxa said.

Xaxa feared that poor funding might force many students out of higher education because of delayed payment of the stipend.

Krishnan, a retired bureaucrat and champion of social justice, said the reduced allocation would perpetuate the “unfortunate phenomenon of piling up of arrears” and would continue to have a “crippling effect” on post-matric education for Dalits.

Krishnan also found problems with the allocation for the welfare of Dalits and tribal people. The government spends funds under the Special Component Plan for Scheduled Castes (SCP) and the Tribal sub-Plan (TsP).

Ideally, SCs and STs should get separate funds proportionate to their population, Krishnan said.

Minister Goyal said the allocation for the SCs had been increased from Rs 56,000 crore last year to Rs 76,000 crore for 2019-20, while the allocation for STs had risen to Rs 50,000 from Rs 39,000 crore, to be spent by various ministries under the SCP and TsP components.

Krishnan said the government was yet to decide areas for spending funds under the SCP and the TsP. This, he said, results in the funds being earmarked for projects like highways and telecommunication lines which don’t exclusively benefit Dalits and tribal people.

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