IN the 5-trillion-dollar economy spiel — figuratively, that would mean digit upon digit, and more digits upon digits — it is inexcusable that four or five-digit scholarship promises to post-matric students are brazenly dispensed with. In Punjab, which has the highest percentage of Scheduled Caste population, and even elsewhere, students have been let down without exception. ‘Lack of funds’ can only be viewed as an apology for an explanation. Misplaced priorities and the lack of urgency to sort out the issues at stake would be a more truthful admission.
To ensure continuity of the scheme and delivery, the Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry has proposed a new fund-sharing pattern, under which the Centre will bear 60 per cent of the burden and states the rest. Will it help? Not unless both the state and Union governments agree to a fundamental commitment: we have to make it work. Punjab CM Capt Amarinder Singh has already rejected the proposal, demanding reverting to a 90:10 norm. The post-matric scholarship scheme ran into trouble in Punjab several years back when some colleges were found indulging in fake enrolments to garner the scholarship fund. The state government stopped payment, and the Centre was no longer forthcoming. The effect of the scam is still being felt. Enrolment under the scheme has been falling consistently and glaringly over the past two academic sessions, with several institutions simply refusing admission to scholarship seekers since the state government has failed to pay dues.
Education is a serious, committed undertaking. It cannot be subject to the bureaucracy's bahi-khata tactics — take out money from one head, replenish the other. Scholarship to a deserving and eligible student — whether from a reserved category or economically weaker section — has to be a guaranteed instrument. Falling short of it is nothing but abdication of duty and a fundamental wrong done to the student. If the buck stops with the government, the educational institutions found embezzling funds too need to be taken to task.