Many OBC students miss out on scholarship for higher education
Thousands of Other Backward Class students are missing out on a scholarship for higher education because the government hasn’t taken the trouble to tell them about it.
Thousands of others are being denied the assistance because of a stringent income cut-off.
Pankaj Kumar of Rupsagar village in Bihar’s Buxar district had not even heard of the Post-Matric Scholarship when he needed the money the most.
Nor would it have helped if he had. For his parental income was higher than the threshold Rs 1.5 lakh a year, making him ineligible for the scholarship. Pankaj is the eldest of the three children of a clerk in the Bihar government’s irrigation department.
His father, however, could not pay for his higher studies in Delhi after he finished his schooling from a Bihar government school.
“I worked with the administrative wing of a Delhi NGO to pay for my living and study expenses. Had I got the scholarship, I would have performed better in my exams,” Pankaj said.
After earning his BA from Dyal Singh College, Delhi University, Pankaj did his LLB from Delhi University’s faculty of law and is now an intern with a Delhi law firm. He has been selected for the LLM course this year.
“I’m the first in my family to study at a central university. Apart from the issue of eligibility, nobody had ever told me about this scholarship,” he said. “Many of my friends in Bihar who would have met the income cut-off never applied because they hadn’t heard of it, either.”
While the income threshold is Rs 1.5 lakh for OBC students, it’s Rs 2.5 lakh a year under the Post-Matric Scholarship scheme for Scheduled Caste students.
For Rosalini and Rubina, daughters of Prasanna Pradhan, an OBC farmer from Kapileswarpur village in Odisha’s Puri district, the problem has solely been of a lack of awareness.
Rosalini is a BA student at Puri’s SCS College while Rubina is enrolled in the Plus II course. Prasanna said he had to borrow from neighbours to pay for his daughters’ education.
Had the sisters applied with all the necessary documents for the scholarship, the elder would have received a monthly aid of Rs 400 and the younger, Rs 260.
Hostel boarders are eligible for Rs 260 to Rs 750 a month — depending on the course — while day scholars get Rs 160 to Rs 260. Both sisters are in hostel.
“I didn’t know of any scholarship for OBC students to pursue higher studies,” Prasanna said.
An official said the Odisha government’s ST & SC development, minorities and backward classes welfare department uploads the details of all scholarships on its website.
OBC activists, however, said the central and state governments should do much more to spread awareness about the scholarship.
“When OBC students are in school, we take the initiative to get them to fill in the application forms for the Pre-Matric Scholarship and attach the necessary documents,” Dwarikanath Biswal, a teacher at the Atibadi Jagannath Das High School in Puri district, said.
“But once they leave school after the board exams, they don’t get any guidance and mostly don’t apply.”
Biswal’s comments carry an ominous implication at a time schools have been closed because of the pandemic.
Rabi Behera, president of the Samajwadi Party’s Odisha unit, blamed the “indifference” of the bureaucrats their political masters and the colleges.
“The Scheduled Castes are well aware of the Post-Matric Scholarship meant for them because it’s been there from before Independence,” he said. “But the equivalent scholarship for OBCs was started in 1998.”
Nearly 60 lakh Dalit students got the Post-Matric Scholarship in 2019-20 while only 41 lakh OBCs did. Behera said OBCs made up 43 per cent of the country’s population while the Dalits were 16.6 per cent.
According to the official All India Survey on Higher Education, 3.85 crore students were enrolled in higher education, of whom 1.42 crore (36.9 per cent) were OBCs and 56.57 lakh (14.7 per cent) were Dalit.