New Delhi: Taking serious note of the long-pending release of post-matric scholarships (PMS) for students belonging to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, a group of parliamentarians on 4 April requested the union finance minister Arun Jaitley to immediately disburse around Rs 12,000 crore, which have accumulated as arrears for the same.
In a letter to the minister written on April 4, three Communist Party of India (Marxist) MPs – P.K. Biju, Jitendra Choudhury and Mohammed Salim – and one Indian National Lok Dal MP, Charanjit Singh Rori, wrote that around 56 lakh SC/ST students have been “severely affected” because of the union government’s delay in releasing the funds.
The parliamentarians said that although the matter was raised by several MPs in the parliament in both starred and unstarred questions, the finance ministry has not released the required funds to the ministry of social justice and empowerment (MoSJ&E) and ministry of tribal affairs (MoTA), which together disburse the scholarships.
“We are extremely appalled by the pending arrear of Rs 6,824.51 crore against SC students and Rs 716.25 crore against ST students as on 31.01.2018 that has been kept pending by your ministry of finance and supposed to release it to the MoSJ&E and MoTA,” the MPs wrote.
They added that it was matter of “serious concern that, as of today, the total outstanding amount towards PMS has amounted to the tune of Rs 12000 crores, accumulating the pending of last financial year (2017-18).”
The letter says that the finance minister had told a new channel on February 28 that before 2019, Rs 6,000 crore for PMS will be cleared in “one go”, but underlines that the minister needs to understand that most students who depend on scholarships have to clear their dues before the exams. The MPs added that if they do not clear their dues on time, they may be barred from taking the exams.
As students are not in a position to wait until 2019, the MPs requested Jaitley to release the funds to all states before their exams.
The opposition leaders have flagged this important issue at a time when the government of India is facing the wrath of Dalits and Adivasis over its unclear stand on Supreme Court’s recent order seeking to protect the misuse of SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) act. Most progressive groups, who called for a “Bharat Bandh” on 2 April to protest against the order, have said that the court’s order diluted the provisions of the SC/ST atrocities act and may render it toothless.
The union government was forced to seek a review of the order after large-scale protests by various Dalit organisations. With the MPs raising yet another significant issue concerning SC/ST communities, backlashes against Modi government may swell in the coming days.