An astonishing report was published by the University of Oxford and the United Nations Development Programme at the same time. This study claimed that every second tribal, every 3rd Schedule Caste, and every third Dalit were below the poverty line. This makes education for a lot of people in India a distant dream. Also, one cannot ignore the fact the inflation rate of the cost of education in India is around 10%. This shows the condition of India’s poorest community when it comes to education. Students from these communities highly depend on the scholarship programs of the Government of India.
The worrying news is coming for the Schedule Caste students who depend on this scholarship. It is so because in the recent past Government of India has changed its view towards such scholarships. This has put the future of lakhs of students of the Scheduled Caste in the dark.
What is the Post Matric Scholarship for Scheduled Caste Students?
The idea behind starting a scholarship for the students of the untouchable community of India was of the great B.R. Ambedkar. He, during British India found ways to ensure that students from the oppressed SC community got a scholarship to do higher studies. This was then continued by the Government of India after India became a democratic republic nation.
The Post Matric Scholarship scheme is one of the centers sponsored schemes. But it is implemented through the State Government and the UT administration. This scheme is aimed at providing financial assistance to the Scheduled Caste students so that they can complete their education. But it covers only those who are studying at the post matriculation or post-secondary stage. These scholarships are available for studying in India only. The scholarship is awarded by the state or the government of the Union Territory to which the applicant belongs to.
This scholarship is given to the students who belong to a family with an annual income below Rs. 2,50,000. The amount that is given to a child varies from child to child. The hostellers are given allowance amounting to Rs. 380 to Rs. 1200. Meanwhile, the scholarship for day scholars varies between Rs. 230 to 550. As of the recent data available, there were a total of 3.03 million beneficiaries of this scholarship in 2018-19.
Recent Trends in Budget Allocation
The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment is the one that controls all the scholarships which are given to the oppressed community students in India. In the year 2019-2020, the total amount given to the ministry for the PMS was 2962.8 crores. Meanwhile, the government allotted 2987.33 crores for the year 2020-2021 in the union budget. This shows that there was a slight increase in budget allotment. But the real problem was that the ministry had asked for Rs. 7000 crores for the same scholarship. As per the report issued by the standing committee on social justice and empowerment, this year’s money was at max used for removing the arrears of 2017-18.
The number of beneficiaries for the year 2016-17 was 5.8 million. But by the year 2018-19 ended, this had reduced to 3.3 million. This marked a fall of 43 percent in the total number of beneficiaries. Between the last 5 years, the amount allocated by the government in the education sector has fallen sharply. In the year 2014-15, the Indian government allocated 4.1% of the total budget to education. But by the year 2019-20, this had reduced to 3.4 % of the total budget of the government. Though what has been a positive sign is the increase of 1000 crores in the overall allotment of the scholarships for the Socially and economically backward classes.
Why is the Number of Beneficiaries Decreasing?
Due to the scarcity of the data, the last data available is for 2018-19. Data for 2019-2020 is still awaited. If one observes the data available, we can see the decline in the number of the total people who were getting benefits from the government under the scheme. This has happened due to the change in the government’s approach towards these schemes. These schemes though distributed by the state government, depending on the funding from the central government.
In the past (the 80s), the central government used to give 60% of the total expenditure done on these scholarships. So, the state government had to just bear 40% of the cost. But in the past few years, this ratio has changed. From the late 80s till 2017-18 this division of load was done based on a new formula that the government had formed. According to this formula, the state’s burden was the total sum spent by it and center on the same scheme in the last year of the five-year plan. This formula was misused by the state government.
They would just spend less in the last year of the five-year plan and would have to pay less in the next 5-year plan. This increased the burden on the central government. As the five-year plan was removed in the year 2018, the central government decided to revamp the formula. They said that the state would now have “committed liability” towards the PMS scholarship for Dalits. This would equal the amount of their highest expenditure made by them during the 12th five-year plan.
The 12th 5-year plan was between 2012-17. Centre only pays whatever state has to pay over their committed liability. This reduced center’s burden to 10 percent. Now the problem is that the states are usually not able to even meet the committed liability due to a shortage of funds. This completely removes the burden from the center’s back. And hence the scholarship is not given to a lot of people.
The government of India must help the needy. Dalits in India are one of the most oppressed citizens. They have been oppressed for a long time. Even though one may think that their condition might have improved after independence, but this has not happened. A very slight change has occurred. Education is something that might be the way to improvement in the condition of the Dalit community. But in a nation where there is an inflation rate of 10% in the education sector, the Dalits can’t get an education without help from the government. But the center and state must work effectively to help Dalits.
At a time when the scholarship amount should be increased to reduce the effect of inflation, the government has stopped the scheme funding. Even the ministry’s report asks for better allotment of budget and faster allocation of funds. The government needs to improve the formula using which burden of funds is reduced from states. A constant flow of funds should be ensured for these schemes. Only then the situation of Dalits would improve in India.
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