Tamil Nadu

SCs fear losing benefits under new scholarship plan

DMK MP D. Ravikumar speaks in the Lok Sabha on March 13, 2020. Photo: YouTube/LSTV

DMK MP D. Ravikumar speaks in the Lok Sabha on March 13, 2020. Photo: YouTube/LSTV  

Centre likely to put new scheme in place in a few months

The Central government’s proposal to scrap scholarship schemes catering exclusively to students belonging to communities such as Scheduled Castes (SC) and Other Backward Classes (OBC) and club them into one has drawn criticism from activists in Tamil Nadu.

To be called Pradhan Mantri Young Achievers Scholarship Award Scheme for Vibrant India (PM-YASASVI), the new arrangement is expected to be in place in a few months. Last month, the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment held discussions with senior officials from various States.

The main objection of critics to the Centre’s initiative is the reduced coverage that the new scheme is likely to achieve.

The existing post-matriculation scholarship scheme for SC students, whose origins can be traced to the efforts of B.R. Ambedkar, in the mid-1940s, has become a “big hit” in the last seven or eight years, mainly due to “liberal financial assistance” of the State government, said M. Bharathan, State convener of the Amebdkar Kalvi Nutrandu Iyakkam. “If it is going to get merged with the proposed scheme, it is our apprehension that this may restrict the number of beneficiaries drastically,” he added.

The number of beneficiaries under the post-matric scheme in T.N. has gone up to such an extent that the State government is bearing most of the scheme’s burden, though it is a Central scheme. For example, in 2018-19, the share of the State government was around ₹1,526 crore while that of the Union government was ₹384 crore. One of the reasons being advanced by the Centre for the launch of the new scheme is that the share of the Centre has been reduced to less than 10% which, according to a document of the Union government, has led to the old scheme losing its “character of a national scheme”.

SCs fear losing benefits under new scholarship plan

D. Ravikumar, MP from Villupuram, who raised the issue in the Lok Sabha on Friday, found fault with the changes being mooted by the Central government. The inclusion of the criterion of merit might render “a large number of deserving Dalit students ineligible” to get the scholarship, which was, after all, being given only to those who pursued higher studies. Mr. Bharathan said that given the relative disadvantage that the SC students would be faving vis-a-vis OBC students, there was a chance of the latter eating into the share of the former. [However, as per a document of the Central government, out of the annual 62 lakh student-beneficiaries, SCs will account for 42 lakh]. “Let the Central government frame a separate scheme for OBC students. We have no objection,” he said.

While Mr. Ravikumar wants the Centre to retain the post-matric scheme and give it a higher allocation, Mr. Bharathan suggests that the State government absorb the full cost of the scheme. Even now, it has allocated about ₹1,950 crore for 2020-21 towards the scheme. “If the outlay can be increased ₹2,000 crore, there would not be much problem,” he adds.

A senior official of the Adi Dravidar and Tribal Welfare Department says the State government is formulating its response to the Centre’s proposal.

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Printable version | Mar 31, 2020 7:54:56 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/scs-fear-losing-benefits-under-new-scholarship-plan/article31070540.ece

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