No scholarship for SC students in pvt institutes

NEW DELHI: The first-ever attempt to replace reservation with scholarship and create a section of Dalits without the stigma of 'quotawallah'has fallen through.

The Expenditure Finance Committee has removed private educational institutions from the ambit of 'top class education'scholarship scheme. It was conceived to encourage meritorious SC students to join speciality courses in the country's institutes of excellence, including those with private management without quota facility, by taking care of their expenses.

The ministry of social justice had identified 130 institutions in the public and private sector and its minister, Meira Kumar, had approved the list. But, in a major blow to the proposed innovation, the EFC on Friday gave its nod to the scheme but ruled that private institutions will not be part of it, ostensibly to cut down on its budget.

The scheme was estimated to start with Rs 40 crore for around 1,250 students, and stabilise with 4,420 students at a maximum budget of Rs 400 crore, by the sixth year.

The EFC-approved proposal will now go to the CCEA for final approval. There is a Post-Matric Scholarship, partly funded by the Centre, which covers the private institutes, but it has limited reach in view of income criteria and does not cover the boarding part. The states are also less amenable to proposals for private institutes as the money to be doled out is high.

With the exclusion of private bodies, the list of institutions will be pruned to half or even less and the scheme will support fewer students.

But, sources argued, the implications go deeper than budgetary concerns. The scheme hoped to push dalit students, used to 50 years of quota regime, towards merit-based admissions in private institutions.

With even meritorious among the SCs opting for quota-based admissions in government institutions owing to affordable expenditure, it was felt they could be encouraged towards private ones with monetary aid. It was to take care of all expenses — tuition fees, board and lodging, computers, books and stationery.

In fact, the present system of admission for SCs clubs all students under the reserved category. The top class scholarship, open to private institutions, would have, for the first time, explored the numbers who make it on merit and thereby given, as an official put it,"breathing space"to the meritorious.

With a section climbing the educational and professional ladder without the 'relaxed merit'philosophy of reservation, the scheme, in the long term, would have effected a change in the social mindset too.

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