Bihar denies SC/ST scholarship for 3 years, redirects funds intended for their education

by Divyakshee K.

The Bihar government, which has been refusing scholarships to many qualified students for the past six years due to a “shortage of funds”, has been found to have diverted more than Rs 8,800 crore from the Scheduled Caste Sub Plan (SCSP) fund, which is intended exclusively for SC/ST and EBC scholarships. 

The Scheduled Caste Sub Plan was established with the intent to narrow the gap between the Scheduled Castes and the general population in terms of human development. Its goal is to direct financial resources to these communities through dedicated schemes.

In its 2018-19 report on Bihar’s finances, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) noted this diversion of the Scheduled Caste Sub Plan (SCSP) grant. This occurred despite the Niti Aayog (then known as the Planning Commission) saying that the SCSP money is exclusively meant for awarding the centrally-sponsored Post-Matric Scholarship (PMS) to SC/ST students with a household income of less than Rs 2.5 lakh per year. 

The following is taken from the CAG report on the scholarship funds:

— The state diverted Rs 2,076.99 crore and loaned Rs 460.84 crore to the state power department.

– Rs 3,081.34 crore was diverted for major road construction.

– Rs 1,202.23 crore was spent on flood control and embankment projects.

– A total of Rs 1,222.94 crore was spent on medical colleges.

— It spent Rs 776.06 crore on a new agricultural department office and other buildings.

The Indian Express reported in August of this year that Bihar had not received a single application for the Post-Matric Scholarship in three years. Officials blame “technical issues with the National Scholarship Portal,” but refuse to explain why the problem hasn’t been addressed and resolved in three years.

Scheduled Castes account for 16 percent of Bihar’s population, while Scheduled Tribes account for 1%, making this scholarship attainable to an estimated 5 lakh students each year. According to the report, most Bihar SC/ST students have been refused this scholarship for the past six years — each time for a different reason between 2016-17 and 2018-19. 

Image via The Indian Express

This is just another one of the several instances of injustice vetted out to the marginalized communities in Bihar. In 2016, several students were forced to drop out of higher education or professional courses that they were pursuing owing to the Bihar government’s SC/ST welfare department restructuring the fee to rationalise the fee structure between government and private colleges. 

Students who benefited from the scheme complained that they were unable to pay their fees when the fee cap was imposed. They were unable to secure bank loans since they hailed from economically disadvantaged backgrounds and were unable to provide sufficient collateral. In order to continue their studies, many people had to sell their family’s land and jewellery. 

Sanjay Kumar, Bihar’s Additional Chief Secretary for Education, said the state government has resumed accepting applications for the scholarship programme, but that the Finance Department was the proper authority to comment on the money diversion. Officials from the Finance Department declined to comment on the topic when approached by the reporters, claiming that the department had previously responded to the CAG. 

Bihar’s Additional Chief Secretary for Education, Sanjay Kumar

Sanjay Kumar further stated that “There has surely been delay in implementation of the scheme because of technical issues with the National Scholarship Portal. We have been provided a single window on the portal. We have requested for a separate site and hope to get it streamlined very soon… But it will be wrong to assume or say that it has been discontinued.”

Image Source: www.thelogicalindian.com www.newindianexpress.com

Reference: The Indian Express

Divyakshee

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