Maharashtra: Covid cuts, red tape delay scholarship for over 9 lakh students

Maharashtra: Covid cuts, red tape delay scholarship for over 9 lakh students

For years, Dyaneshwar Munde, the son of a poor farmer from Girewadi village in Beed, has dreamt of an engineering job in a top firm, but there’s Rs 60,000 standing in his way.

That’s how much money Munde (22) owes to the Sangli-based Walchand College of Engineering (WCoE) where he has been studying since 2016. While Munde cleared his Bachelors (Electrical Engineering) this October, the college has withheld his marksheets as well as graduation and leaving certificates till he pays this outstanding amount.

While the college said it is yet to receive his dues from 2018-19 and 2019-20, Munde blamed the erratic disbursal of the Maharashtra government’s post matriculation scholarships in recent years for the delay.

“The state is yet to release one component (development fee/other fees) of the college’s share in the scholarship for 2018-19 and 2019-20. How is it my fault?” asked Munde, who claimed that his repeated pleas to the college for the release of his certificates have gone unheard.

Multiple visits to offices of the district social welfare officer haven’t helped either. “They keep saying there is some technical glitch. But nobody’s rectifying it,” Munde said.

Last month, he got a job offer from a Mumbai-based construction major, but it won’t induct him till he submits his certificates. Unseasonal rains have damaged the farming family’s soyabean crop, compounded further worries.

Munde is not alone. The state government data shows that at least 9.10 lakh students belonging to Scheduled Castes (SC), Other Backward Classes (OBC), Vimukta Jati and Nomadic Tribes (VJNT) and Special Backward Class (SBC) communities have been put in a precarious situation due to it delay in scholarship disbursal for 2018-19 and 2019-20.

An amount of Rs 1,101 crore in undisbursed scholarships for these years is lying idle. In Sangli’s WCoE alone, College Registrar Sachin Kadam, confirmed at least 460 cases where students had completed their courses, but their scholarship amounts were yet to be paid by the government.

“The total amount due to the college is Rs 5.5 crore,” he said. Claiming that the college was regularly following up with state authorities for a fix, Kadam said “it was doing its best to cooperate with the affected students”.

Three state departments – social justice and special assistance, tribal development and OBC, VJNT and SBC – offer post matriculation scholarships to students from disadvantaged communities. However, Jagdish Gupta, Principal Secretary (OBC, VJNT and SBC) admitted that the problem was more chronic in his department, which relied solely on the state’s consolidated fund that has been hit adversely hit by budget cuts and diversion of resources due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

For 2020-21, the department has budgeted spend worth Rs 3,000 crore, but so far only Rs 1,100 crore have been released to it.

For 2019-20, it had sanctioned scholarship applications of 8,98,043 lakh students, totalling Rs 1927.91, but only
Rs 891 crore have so far been disbursed. While 1,27,185 eligible students haven’t even got a single penny, data shows that another 5,86,892 are awaiting the second installment of the scholarship. Additionally, for 2018-19, the department is yet to release Rs 23.12 crore due to 1.33 lakh students.

The department is also faced with serious staff shortage and has inherited pending scholarship claims from the social justice department it was a part of till 2017. “We still have Rs 300 crore in prior 2018-19 claims to settle,” said Gupta.

“Colleges shouldn’t withhold certificates of students. Once the application is approved, the institution is guaranteed of the amount,” Gupta said.

In the first year of his MBBS course in 2014, Dr Vinod Gadade (28) had applied for a scholarship but did not receive it.While he got the scholarship for subsequent years, the disbursal of the first year’s amount is still pending.

In 2018, after his college withheld his certificate, Gadade – now a doctor at a state-run public health centre in Marathwada – had to mortgage his family’s eight-acre farm to pay the college’s Rs 3.93 lakh outstanding fee. “I’m still paying interest on the borrowed amount,” said Gadade.

On Monday, a delegation of OBC ministers, headed by NCP’s Chhagan Bhujbal, met Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to demand enhanced budgetary allocations for the scholarship scheme.

The social justice department is yet to disburse Rs 42 crore due to 62,593 SC students for 2018-19 and 2019-20. In several cases, the disbursals are pending due to non-tallying of bank accounts or non-linking of Aadhar with valid bank accounts of students.

Scholarship schemes offered by the Centre and the state are available to students from the SC, Scheduled Tribes, OBCs, VJNTs and SBC communities after they complete Class X. They are mostly used for higher education, including general studies in colleges, professional courses such as engineering and medicine and PhD courses. The scholarship comes in two components – the college fee component and a maintenance grant for students.


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