As early as 1913 while pursuing Ph.D. from Columbia University, B.R. Ambedkar from New York wrote to his friend’s father “Let your mission be to educate and preach the idea of education to those at least who are near to and in close contact with you.”
Education was assigned a revolutionary role in Ambedkar’s conception of social progress and in his vision of a just and equal society. It was identified as a key instrument of liberation from oppressive structures of caste hierarchy as well as of reconstruction of a new social order.
In what could be termed as a golden opportunity for the oppressed classes to make their way to echelons of higher education, the Post Matric Scholarships (PMS) guaranteed by Government Order 92 have not caught the attention of the authorities concerned and have not been implemented properly.
On Monday, the All India Students Association (AISA) staged a protest near District Collectorate here to seek the attention of district administration and authorities concerned to implement the scholarship scheme, which says no fee shall be collected from SC/ST and SC Christian converts students whose parental income is less than Rs. 2 lakh.
The major demands of the protest were, Tamil Nadu government should take adequate steps to popularise the Post Matric Scholarship scheme and issue orders to the private, self-financing and government-aided colleges to strictly implement the Government Order and issue warning that failure to abide would invoke SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989.
Madurai Kamaraj University should set an example by fully implementing the scheme in its constituent colleges and affiliated institutions. The protesters said that the Adi Dravidar Welfare Department and Finance Department should disburse the funds to the respective institutions during the start of the academic year itself.
Meanwhile, the AISA has filed a Public Interest Litigation in the Madras High Court, Chennai, with a prayer to implement the G.O. 92 without any further delay. Bharathi, national secretary of AISA, said that the PIL includes repayment of fee that was remitted by SC/ST students and Christian SC converts for the academic years 2011-12 and 2012-13 and to ask the state government to issue advertisements in major dailies about the G.O.
The district Adi Dravidar and Tribal Welfare Department authorities on Monday told The Hindu that a total amount of Rs 14. 63 crore has been allotted for all forms of scholarships meant for SC/ST students, including PMS scheme in the district for the academic year 2013-14.
The authorities further said that initially the pending scholarship arrears of Rs.2.71 crore would be disbursed and the remaining scholarships disbursed accordingly after details are furnished by the respective institutions.
However, the details regarding eligible candidates for these scholarships need to be provided by the respective educational institutions through the respective directorates. According to the G.O. 92, the Directorates of Technical Education, Medical Education and Collegiate Education had been directed to collect data on eligible students and the fee details from the self-financing colleges and get the required amount from the office of the Commissioner of Adi Dravidar Welfare, who would be disbursing the funds through the respective ADW departments in the districts.
R. Murali, Principal, Madura College, said that awareness among educational institutions of G.O. 92 and Post Matric Scholarship scheme is low.
“Principals of colleges and management need to be given an orientation about this scheme’s importance from a social justice and empowerment point of view.” This scheme is a golden opportunity for the historically marginalised sections of our society and needs to be implemented properly. “In our college we take concerted efforts to fully implement the scheme without fail,” he added.
The colleges under the scheme had been specifically told that at the time of admission, they should not collect fee from eligible beneficiaries of the scheme and should admit them after scrutinising the income and community certificates. According to the G.O., to monitor the implementation of the scheme, a committee of officials should be constituted by the Commissioner of Adi Dravidar Welfare. However, there has been no such effort, sources said.
The scheme is implemented by the State Government, which receives 100 per cent central assistance from Central Government for the total expenditure under the scheme, over and above their respective Committed Liability.