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regular-article-logo Monday, 17 June 2024

Tussle over Pre-Matric and Post-Matric scholarships for SC-ST students

MPs push government to raise cut-off

Basant Kumar Mohanty New Delhi Published 09.04.23, 04:20 AM
Representational image.

Representational image. File photo

A parliamentary panel has reiterated its recommendation to raise the parental income ceiling towards eligibility for the Pre-Matric and Post-Matric scholarships for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe students, objecting to the government’s earlier rejection of the proposal.

The Committee on Welfare of SCs and STs has, in a report tabled in late March, cited inflation and income rise to argue that the current income cut-off of Rs 2.5 lakh a year, set six years ago, is depriving many deserving students of the scholarships.

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In an earlier report, the committee had recommended that the figure be raised to Rs 8 lakh to bring it on a par with the income ceiling used in determining eligibility for the Other Backward Classes (OBC) and Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) reservation.

In its reply, the social justice and empowerment ministry said the ceiling was Rs 2.5 lakh for the Pre-Matric and Post-Matric scholarship schemes for OBC and EWS students too, implying that raising it only for the SC and ST scholarships would be discriminatory.

It added that the Union cabinet had in 2021 decided that the current income ceiling would continue till 2025-26.

Citing this answer, the parliamentary panel, headedby BJP Lok Sabha member Kirti P. Solanki, has in itslatest report asked the ministry not to be rigid about the 2025-26 timetable.

“This would prove detrimental and would make numerous students lose out on scholarship,” it said.

“The committee would once again stress that keeping in mind the current inflation and miscellaneous educational expenses, the ceiling of parents’ income should besuitably enhanced so that more and more students can reap the benefits of the scheme.”

Government sources said the House panel had confined its recommendation to the scholarships for SC andST students since only these two sections came under its purview. But if the government so wants, it can raise the income ceiling for the OBCs, minorities and EWS too, they added.

They said that if the social justice ministry, which handles the scholarships for SCs, OBCs and EWS, raises the income ceiling, the ministries for minorities and tribal affairs should have no problem doing the same for minority and ST beneficiaries of the scholarships.

“It’s a case of bureaucratic apathy. Because of inflation and growth in income, many casual and daily-wage workers too earn over Rs 2.5 lakh a year these days. This ceiling denies the benefits to deserving students,” Ashok Bharti, chairperson of the National Confederation of Dalit Organisations, said.

The House panel’s report cites figures from the Kendriya and Navodaya Vidyalayas to suggest that the number of Pre-Matric and Post-Matric scholarship holders among Dalit and tribal students is extremely low compared with their enrolment.

Over the five years from 2017-18 to 2021-22, the number of Pre-Matric Scholarship holders among Class IX and X students at the Kendriya Vidyalayas fluctuated between Rs 10,634 and 7,436.

Given that the Kendriya Vidyalayas have 14 lakh students from Class I to XII, and 22.5 per cent of them areSC and ST, the figures suggest that only 17 to 25 percent of the students from thesegenerally poor and educationally backward segments benefit from the scholarship.

Most of the students at the Kendriya Vidyalayas are children of central government employees, who are paid above Rs 2.5 lakh a year.

Till 2021-22, the Pre-Matric scholarship was available to children from Class I to X but the government has restricted it to Class IX and X from the current financial year (2022-23), attracting criticism from academics and education activists.

Day scholars among Pre-Matric scholarship beneficiaries receive Rs 225 a month an and additional Rs 750 a year, while hostel boarders receive Rs 525 a month and an additional Rs 1,000 a year.

Under the Post-Matric scholarship — available till the beneficiaries complete their postgraduation — the students receive sums ranging between Rs 3,000 and Rs 13,500, depending on the course.

The House panel has urged the government to raise the amounts.

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