ST/SC student assistance schemes: Does it reach the beneficiaries ?

Ninglun Hanghal *

After every exam season and the end of financial year, voices of grievances and demand for sanction of schemes under Post Matric scholarships for ST / SC students would rent the air in Manipur. A yearly affair these are mostly during the months after April. Several agitations in the form of bandhs and protest have also been consistently launched by Tribal Student Bodies in the state.

Earlier in March students threaten to agitate and launch attack against concern departments in demand for payment of post-matric scholarships for the period from 2011-12 and 2012-13 entitled to OBCs and SCs, which were allegedly withheld from disbursement

Alleging misappropriation , according to the students the total amount of the back log payment comes upto to Rs 51,72,130 for the period of 2011-12 and a total of Rs. 1,72,76,871 for the period 2012-2013, while the total number of SC/OBC student beneficiary were 2347 and 2517 respectively.

The Post Matric Scholarship was introduced in 1944-45 to provide assistance to students belonging to ST/SC in India to enable them to pursue higher education after their matriculation.

In Manipur the state Government in collaboration with concern departments utilized this ST/SC student scholarship conveniently for various "other purposes". The money sanctioned became handy for the state government since it is in continual debt and solely dependent on central assistance in any development works including payment of salaries . whether it is utilized for such purposes is altogether a different story.

In may 1999, in its reply to a question for withholding disbursement of ST/SC scholarships, the Tribal Welfare Department of the Government of Manipur, wrote to the Ministry of Social Justice stating that the disbursement of scholarship was held up due to "financial constraint". The letter signed by under-secretary of the Tribal Department, did not give details of the reason of the financial constraints nor any explanations.

Besides cash disbursement withheld for years on, when it actually reach the ST/SCs students , they receives only a slice of the pie . According to former Tribal Student leader Gin Shoute, in the year 2005-2006 the payment for ST students in Churachandpur district ranges from Rs.740 to Rs.1940 for a total of 1156 students in Churachandpur Govt College, while an amount raging from Rs.3640 to Rs 4360 were disbursed to 938 students of Rayburn college, and an amount of Rs 3840 to Rs. 4930 to 321 students in V.K. Tawna college. The total less payment was amounting to Rs. 6,713,115.

This has been the norm and practice, the concern department(s) have been consistently pursued for disbursement of the full amount but to no avail, laments Shoute , the former Student leader who till today is relentlessly writing to concern Ministries and department regarding the matter. Had there been no consistent pressure it is unlikely that the schemes would reached the students.

Moreover, though the ST/SC scholarships is a centrally sponsored schemes with its own guidelines, the Manipur government and Tribal department devised their own rules and regulations.

From time to time and according to market price the Tribal Ministry would issue guidelines and regulations concerning the Scholarship such as amount and budget heads. As recent as in 2010 the centre's regulations governing the award of scholarship covers maintenance allowance for hostelers and day scholars , provision for students with disabilities, re-imbursement of compulsory non- refundable fees, study tour charges, thesis typing/printing charges, and book allowances. The state government has its own creative ways of manipulating the regulations. In the fresh and renewal forms for 2013 2014, the main and key component of allowance for admission and registration fees were excluded in the Forms.

The scholarship story do not end here . Many of the students and tribal population in Manipur are in the dark of a scheme called Pre Matric scholarship. A new scheme to bring down drop-out rates in rural areas the Pre-matric Scholarship for classes IX and X was introduced in 2012 across India.

Since its introduction, the first scheme for period of 2012-2013 an amount of Rs.7,29,70,200/- (Rs. Seven crore twenty nine lakh seventy thousand two hundred only) was released recently by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs under the Central Assistance to State Government of Manipur for Pre Matric ST students in the state.

The said scholarship was earmarked for 27,112 ST students out of which 12,700 were for hostellers and 14,412 day scholars. A letter issued by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs [Education Section] Government of India in February 2014, to the Pay & Accounts Officer, it stated that as per sanction of the President of India it conveys the department to release an amount of Rs.7,29,70,200/- (Rs. Seven crore twenty ni~e lakh seventy thousand two hundred only) to Government of Manipur within the year 2013-2014 as its second installment for 2012-2013 payment under the Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Pre-Matric Scholarship for ST students studying in Classes IX&X in Manipur.

The letter further stated that the amount is to be credited to the State Government in accordance with the procedure laid down in the Ministry of Finance OM No. 2(45)76-SpI.Cell dated 30-8-1976 and as modified vide OM of even number dated 16-09-1976 under intimation to the Tribal Ministry.

The communication cautioned that the State Government has no authority to divert the funds for "other purpose" and insisted that the Utilization Certificate along-with details of beneficiaries should be submitted by the State. The letter stated that the state government (and tribal departments) to ensure that the said information should reach the Gram Sabhas ( Village Councils of ADCs) to which the beneficiary ( ST Student) belongs.

According to the sanction order letter, the total admissible student under the scheme is 27112( Twenty seven thousand one hundred and twelve.) For ST hostellers is Rs 350 per head along with book grant of Rs 100 per year, while Day scholars will received an amount of Rs 1000 per annum with Rs 750 for book grants.

The release letter mentioned that the sanction relates to Plan Expenditure and is in accordance with the pattern of assistance prescribed by the Planning Commission and subject to the provision of General Financial Rules, 2005

A copy of the said sanction letter was also intimated to several concern departments in the Govt of Manipur, that includes Accountant General, Secretary for Tribal Affairs & Hills Department, Secretary for Education Department, Secretary for Finance Department, Secretary for Planning Department.

With the state of affairs of key implementing department the Tribal welfare department and the non functioning District Councils in Manipur, it is indeed not surprising that at the end of every financial year Tribal Student Bodies have to raise their voice in "demand " for their rightful share of the scheme ( at least some percentage, if not all) and many a times come are out in the streets and issue "threatening " calls for protest.

* Ninglun Hanghal wrote this article for
The writer is with The Sangai Express and can be contacted at hanghal(dot)ninglun(at)gmail(dot)com
This article was posted on August 25, 2014.

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