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Mayawati has triggered a controversy on selective scholarships for the poor.

Putting the brakes on a spiralling controversy over higher education in Uttar Pradesh, the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court has, for the moment, bailed out over 15 lakh disadvantaged upper and backward caste students. It has stayed Chief Minister Mayawati’s dramatic cut in scholarships for these students, who are seeking degrees in medicine, engineering, management and other fields from private, unaided institutions.
On 29 January 2009, the court directed that students enrolled before the scholarship was in force “be allowed to continue with their studies without asking them to make payment of any fee. Students admitted after the May 29 and 31, 2008 orders shall also be allowed to continue with their studies without asking for further fees.” The Bench also stated that “no further fees are to be sought till the government- appointed committee on the row gives its recommendation and a decision on the same is taken, or till the court issues further orders, whichever is earlier.”


Rs 13,000 for MBBS and BDS
Rs 3.42 lakh per annum for MBBS; Rs 2.10 lakh for BDS
Rs 25,000 for BTech, BArch, BPharma, MBA and MCA
Rs 70,200 for BTech, BArch, BPharma, MBA, MCA etc
Rs 2,000 for BSc
Rs 6,000 for BSc
Rs 1,500 for BA and BCom.
Rs 5,000 for BA and BCom.


Although the students are happy with the court order, private colleges and institutions are in a fix. They can neither claim reimbursement from the government till the committee makes its report nor can they charge anything from the students. For some institutes, this has resulted in great financial pressure, such as the Babu Banarsi Das National Institute of Technology and Management in Lucknow. “All our problems come from the fact that we claimed fee reimbursements for the current session as per the May 2008 orders,” says SK Garg, the institute’s administrative officer. These totalled up to over Rs 5 crore. Not being able to realise them is costing the institute every day, says director AK Mittra. He has refused to say if he would move court on the issue.

Uttar Pradesh is the only state to have extended the Central scheme for Dalit students to other castes. Former Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav did this when he brought upper caste students, with an annual household income of less than Rs 1 lakh, under the scheme in August 2006. He then included OBC students in February 2007. A budget of Rs 148 crore was sanctioned for the scheme in 2007. An additional Rs 50 crore was approved after the inclusion of the OBCs.
While students of state-aided and privately- run institutions can seek the scholarship, the cost-discrepancy between the two is tremendous (see box). The cutback in scholarship for non-Dalit students has enraged Mayawati’s detractors, who are calling it a betrayal of her ‘Sarvajan Samaj’ (all-inclusive politics) plank that she came to power on two years ago.

Mayawati has overturned Mulayam Singh Yadav’s inclusion of upper caste and OBC students in a programme that elsewhere benefits Dalit youth alone. Social and backward welfare department sources say they were under great pressure to ensure that the scheme is restored to its original beneficiaries as soon as possible.

The rectification got underway in May 2008 when the government, having completed a year in power, issued two orders that placed the scholarship reimbursements given to students in private colleges at par with those given to students in government-aided ones. For instance, an MBBS student in a private institute was reimbursed Rs 3.42 lakh, the cost of the course. A government student was reimbursed Rs 13,000, the cost of the course there.

The order putting reimbursements in government and private institutions at par means the private MBBS student also gets Rs 13,000 reimbursement now, like the government student. Private OBC and upper caste students now have to pay the difference while Dalit students continue to enjoy the benefits of full scholarship in both.

The order has had grievous impact on impoverished upper caste and OBC students. They now have to pay a difference of Rs 3.3 lakh a year for continuing their MBBS; nearly Rs 2 lakh for BDS; Rs 45,200 for BTech, BArch, BPharma, MBA and MCA studies; Rs 4,000 for BSc; and up to Rs 3,500 for BA and BCom. As for their annual hostel fees, which in private institutions can go up to Rs 45,000, the students are entitled to Rs 7,400 after the government decision.

Many students had to withdraw from their courses as their parents were now unable to pay their fees, a director of a private college in Allahabad says, asking not to be named because the issue was sensitive. The government has constituted a committee to look into their grievances. But champions of their cause have already emerged. One such is an NGO called Meritorious Education for Youth’s Development and Humane Activities (MEYDHA) run by a senior PCS officer Laxmi Kant Shukla. B Tech first year students Anand Jaiswal (20) and Mohammed Afsar (21), both from Lucknow, credit the NGO with keeping them still enrolled in their course, and it is Shukla who has led to the court’s stay order. “The orders are arbitrary, caste discriminatory and violate the students’ fundamental right to education,” says Shukla, who filed the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) that triggered the order.

The funding slash has been a point of controversy for several months now. Mayawati is unlikely to risk ceding the issue to her opponents, who are already making capital of it. But she will need to act fast to stem the disaffection it is causing her non-Dalit constituency.
(Source: Tehelka, 14th March 2009).
Last Updated ( Wednesday, 25 March 2009 )


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