Central scheme for ‘disaffected’ Kashmiri students in shambles

May 30, 2016 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

New Delhi, May 30, 2016: Following the 2010 clashes between stone-pelters and the police in which more than 100 Kashmiri youth were killed, the then UPA dispensation devised a Rs 1,200 crore Prime Minister’s Special Scholarship Scheme (PMSSS) to integrate alienated Kashmiri students with the mainstream.

The scheme was to enlist 5,000 students per year for college scholarships. However, more than five years later, thousands of economically marginalized students who took up New Delhi’s offer of free higher education in various parts of the country, find themselves abandoned, as the programme is in disarray amid allegations of corruption.

Several Kashmiri students in various colleges of Delhi and Rajasthan told TOI that they had registered for scholarships but either did not get the funds, or were compelled to take educational loans mid-course after their funds stopped abruptly.

According to the scheme, 5,000 students were to be given scholarships each year. In the first year, 2011-12, owing to lack of awareness about the programme, barely 40 students were registered and selected. But since 2012-13, the registrations rose every year: 5,186 in 2013; 6,706 in 2014; and 9,371 in 2015 (data for 2016 isn’t available).

But, while the four-year target of 20,000 registerations for scholarships was exceeded marginally, standing at 21,301, sources citing RTI queries to All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) told TOI that of the registered students only 10,500 got scholarships.

More, of 10,500 students, around 3,000 were forced to give up their courses after a fund freeze, said Malik Imtiyaz, chairman of Peoples’ Forum, a Kashmir-based NGO which raised awareness about the scheme among economically poor students in Kashmir.

A Sopore girl, who was expelled mid-course after her scholarship funds were stopped abruptly, said, “Our friends went back because some colleges refused to admit them while others threw them out mid-course because they hadn’t received scholarship funds.

“I was evicted from the hostel one day because my college said it had not received my scholarship funds. I didn’t know where to go. So my friends and I stayed in the Bangla Sahib Gurudwara for several days,” the girl, who took an educational loan in desperation for her physiotherapy degree in a Gurgaon college, told the TOI.

“Like many others, I’d come to Delhi against the advice of my family elders, and it was humiliating to return without a degree,” the girl said.

Many students who were asked to quit their programmes midway went to J&K High court which asked AICTE and the government to release their grants. But the students told TOI that college authorities have ignored court directives and instead demanded the fee that the government owes them.

Imtiyaz said, “Instead of bridging the gap, this poorly implemented scheme has widened the trust deficit between Kashmiri youth and New Delhi.” He alleged that the execution and monitoring agency, AICTE, and college authorities, had misappropriated funds allocated for the scheme.

AICTE chairman Anil Sahasrabudhe told TOI there was no misappropriation. “Many students may have returned to J&K because they could not pay the fee as demanded by colleges and universities. The scholarship was not paid to them because they were not selected under the scheme and had taken admission on their own in non-approved programmes or colleges or universities,” he said.

But AICTE, according to the students, had held physical verifications and scrutinized merit for their selection and only recently disqualified some students. One B Tech student from Surankote, Poonch, at a Noida college, said his college told him after three years that he was not eligible for scholarship due to a new rule for cut-off in the merit.

“Had they told me during the admission process, I would have gone back. But I have been doing part-time jobs to pay for my rented room and education,” he said.

Imtiyaz pointed out that the scheme was supposed to create merit out of non-meritorious students. “These are underprivileged students who didn’t go to good schools and were raised in a conflict zone. How are they supposed to be in high merit?” he asked.

Students said that in some instances, scholarship winners were allocated colleges which did not even exist. In other cases, scholarship was drawn by students who were not even enrolled in any of the colleges under PMSSS.

Imtiyaz has filed several RTIs on behalf of students and pleaded with the government to make the scheme an operation between the Centre and the state, instead of colleges, NGOs and AICTE.

“If the mission was to build trust, this scheme has thoroughly failed. The government shouldn’t ruin the future of these poor students and release their funds immediately,” Imtiyaz said.

– times of india

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