23 Jan 2014

Post-Matric Scholarship Scheme for Scheduled Castes Students - Educating to Empower

Education is the glue that makes the society cohesive and helps in the formation of its paradigms. Never before has education acquired such dominant a role in shaping of the Indian society as in today’s era. Education has very well played the role of a Great Liberator. 
It has become an instrument of empowerment. The urge for higher education among students from Scheduled Castes (SC) have let them cement their positions in the society, thereby helping them in looking out for newer avenues of social mobility. 
Unless education brings home the bacon for them, they would not succeed in dampening or completely demolishing the social barriers put up in their path of upward social mobility. Keeping this in the back of the mind, the Government of India played the part of the single largest intervener for the educational development of SC students.
Serving as the biggest leveler of the society since 1944, the Post-Matric Scholarship Scheme for Scheduled Castes Students presently eases the path of education for about 50 lakh students. It is a national level Scheme furnishing financial assistance to SC students at post-matriculation level in the country. The Scheme provides valuable support for the SC students to raise their educational status, enabling them to become a part of the mainstream society. The Scheme provides for 100 per cent central assistance to the state governments and Union Territory administrations over and above their committed liability. The North-Eastern states are exempted from the committed liability.  
A flagship Scheme of the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, the scholarships are given to students belonging to SC for the study of all recognised post-matriculation or post-secondary courses pursued in recognised institutions except for courses like Maintenance Engineer’s Courses and Private Pilot License Courses; and courses of training at the Military College, and courses at Pre-examination Training Centres of all India and State levels. It is to be mentioned that those students who pursue their studies through correspondence courses are also eligible for the scholarships. Employed students whose income combined with the income of their parents/guardians do not exceed the maximum prescribed income ceiling are also made entitled to post-matric scholarships to the extent of reimbursement of all compulsorily payable non-refundable fees.
The financial aid under the Scheme to the SC students includes maintenance allowance, reimbursement of non-refundable compulsory fee charged by the educational institutions, book bank facility, among other allowances. Since April 1, 2013, scholarships will be paid to the students whose parents/guardians’ income from all sources does not exceed Rs. 2,50,000 per annum. Additional allowance for disabled students for the complete duration of the course is also a part of the Scheme. Apart from Reader Allowance for blind students which varies on the level of the course, there is a provision of transport allowance, escort allowance and allowance for extra coaching to mentally retarded and mentally ill students too.
 The disabled students belonging to Scheduled Castes covered under the Scheme can also get such additional benefits from other Schemes, which are not covered under the Scheme. The Scholarship Scheme also includes annual book allowance. For this book banks have been set up in various educational institutions, where books are supplied to SC students in installments, depending on the course, semester structure etc.
The eligible students will be given scholarships subject to the application of Means Test prescribed in the Scheme. Those students who belong to a particular state but are studying in other state will be awarded the scholarships by the state to which they belong after submitting their applications to the competent authorities in that state. The duration of the scholarship depends on factors like good conduct and regularity in attendance till the completion of the course subject. The scholarship is renewed on the basis of the fact that the scholar secures promotion to the next higher class irrespective of the fact whether such examinations are conducted by a University or the Institution. 
However, if a SC scholar pursuing certain courses (mentioned in the Scheme) fails in the examination for the first time, the award may be renewed.  This is clear that the purpose of the scheme is to be as comprehensive in its coverage as is reasonably possible. The limitation imposed by historical injustices need a scheme that is easy to avail and covers all the points of restrictions and deprivation that may befall a SC seeker of education.
In order to smoothen the way for timely payment of the scholarship amount to the students, states like Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala have fully computerised the implementation of the Scheme and have started online processing of the scholarships. Kerala has started the system of e-grantz for the timely disbursement of the scholarship amount. Furthermore, various state governments and UT administrators have also agreed to make payment of scholarship to the beneficiaries through their (beneficiary students) accounts in post offices or banks. 
As mentioned earlier, the Scheme receives 100 per cent central assistance from the central government for total expenditure under the Scheme, over and above their respective Committed Liability. The level of Committed Liability for a year is equivalent to the level of actual expenditure incurred by the administrators under the Scheme during the terminal year of the last Five Year Plan period and is required to be borne by them for which they are supposed to make necessitated provision in their budget.
The number of beneficiaries under the Post Matric Scholarship Scheme for SCs has been increasing over the years. During the 11th Plan, the number of students financially assisted under the Scheme went up from 31.58 lakh to 46 lakh. The total expenditure under the Scheme including the Committed Liability of the states increased from Rs. 2,158.70crore in 2007-2008 to Rs. 3,994.96 crore in 2011-12. The national average of female beneficiaries under the Scheme for the year 2011-12 was 38.31 per cent. In this manner, active government intervention through a Scheme focused on education for students of Scheduled Castes paved the way for mainstreaming them into the society.

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