Pending for 4 years, state institutions yet to get ₹1,853 crore in post-matric scholarship
PATIALA: The much-hyped centrally sponsored postmatric scholarship scheme for the scheduled caste (SC) students seems to be in the doldrums as funds to the tune of ₹1,853 crore have not been released for the past four years to various educational institutions in Punjab.
It was in the 2015-16 academic session when the colleges and universities in the state, both public and private, were last paid the funds under the scheme. Now, the scholarship has turned into a financial burden for these institutions due to the pendency that was ₹415 crore in 2016-17, ₹538 in 2017-18, ₹437 crore in 2018-19 and ₹450 crore in 2019-20.
In Punjab, over 2.5 lakh students belonging to the schedule castes are the direct beneficiaries of the scheme.
Under the scheme, the scholarship (mainly as academic fee waiver) is paid to the students whose parents and guardians’ annual income from all sources does not exceed ₹2.5 lakh.
“As per the terms and conditions, the Punjab government was to take over the central scheme and had to bear the cost from 2016 onwards. Before 2016, the scheme was 90% financially sponsored by the Centre. Thereafter, the state government failed to take over the scheme and the Union ministry of social justice and empowerment stalled the funding,” an official said.
Anshu Kataria, president, Punjab Unaided Colleges Association (PUCA), said the amount has been stuck in the correspondences between state and central government departments and they have failed to resolve the issue so far.
“We came to know that the funds worth ₹309 crore were released to the state in March but they have not been distributed to the institutions yet as a result of which they are under huge financial stress. Also, there is no clarity on giving admissions to students under twhe scheme in the coming 2020-21 academic year,” he said.
Punjabi University, Patiala, registrar Prof Manjit Singh Nijjar said they have repeatedly written to the state government to clear their dues to the tune of ₹46 crore under the scheme. “We have not received any funds in the past four years,” he added.
Kirpa Shankar Saroj, additional chief secretary (social justice, empowerment and minorities) said talks are on with the Centre to release the pending arrears under the scheme.
“It is not possible for the state government to clear arrears from its own resources. It is primarily a central scheme and therefore we have taken up the issue with the department concerned for settlement of payments,” he said.
As far as adopting the scheme is concerned, the additional chief secretary said their department has prepared a blueprint to come up with a similar plan.