Kolkata, January 1 The West Bengal government’s much-touted Merit-cum-Means scholarship scheme has not found many takers, most likely due to the lack of publicity. The Rs 10-crore scheme, a brainchild of Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, was launched in 2006 to help meritorious students from economically backward families.
According to sources, in 2006 the government spent just 12.5 per cent of the allocated fund as it received very few applications for the scholarship. The quota was for 3,700 students while the applications received numbered just 1,419.
November 15, 2007 was the last date for submission of forms. The applications received in some categories are so few in number (see chart) that the departments have prepared the scholarship budget keeping in mind that all the applicants will be granted the scholarships. However, Special Secretary (Higher Education department) Sabyasanchi Roy denied that lack of publicity by the government was the reason for the less number of applicants for two consecutive years. Instead, he said, “The high percentage of marks required for getting the scholarship stands in the way of more students coming forward. We are relaxing the criteria.” A steering committee, under the chairmanship of higher education minister Sudarshan Roychoudhury and 11 education officials, has been set up to look after the scholarship programme.
The scholarship is available to students whose annual family income is below Rs 80,000 per annum.
The criteria for getting scholarship are:
*75 per cent marks at madhyamik-level (Class X) for candidates seeking scholarship at higher secondary level
*75 per cent at higher secondary- level (Class XII) for students seeking scholarship in undergraduate courses
*55 per cent at undergraduate level for students seeking scholarship in post-graduate courses
Incidentally, whereas other scholarships like DPI provide just a meagre sum of Rs 40 for higher secondary and undergraduate students and Rs 60 for post-graduate students per month, the Merit-cum-Means scholarship provides Rs 500 to Rs 1500 per month.
According to department officials, the total budget in 2007 was about Rs 6.5 crore, including the quota of 3,700 students, 1,419 students selected in 2006 as well as the 665 students from the chief minster’s secretariat.