Jammu and Kashmir students are demanding full disbursal of their ‘rightful’ Jammu and Kashmir Prime Minister Special Scholarship Scheme (AICTE) and have urged the Ministry of Education to reconsider its decision of “giving only one component of the scholarship”.
The scholarship is meant for students from marginalised backgrounds to help them pursue higher technical education. But as of now, students are being given only one component of it as “offline education doesn’t require maintenance”.
The special scholarship has two components — one is tuition where academic fee is directly given to the college, and the other component is maintenance. The expenses add up to almost Rs 1 lakh every year, including hostel and mess charges.
According to chairman of All India Council for Technical Education Anil Sahasrabuddhe, “For past two years, we were giving J&K students installments of Rs 10,000 a month. But since the colleges have not opened and offline classes have not resumed, there are no expenses of hostel and mess. Hence, the maintenance expenses shall be started after regular campus life resumes.”
He said this partial disbursal of scholarship is because “there are no expenses being incurred on hostel and mess”.
The Ministry of Education was earlier approached regarding the disbursal of scholarship, following which the AICTE paid till May. The full scholarship will be disbursed after students return to campus.
Students, however, are disappointed with the partial disbursal of scholarship. The expenses on education include online devices, internet expenses and reading material including books. Some Jammu and Kashmir students could not go back home during the lockdown and rented living spaces close to the campus. The students are still being called to the campus for filling out forms and being charged for many other formalities.
Muneeb Ahmad Tantray who is pursuing engineering in Shaheed Udham Singh College of Engineering and Technology went back home after higher education institutes were closed during Covid-19 lockdown. He is relying on the scholarship money to fund online education. “We’ve spent money to procure devices for online classes and have incurred additional charges to buy extra data packs to attend online classes,” he said over phone from Anantnag.
Equally disappointed is Mohamad Ramzan who attends Rizvi College of Engineering, Mumbai. “It is our maintenance fees, and we cannot be denied because everyone is spending money on either food or on rented rooms since colleges and hostels are shut. This decision does not include the complete view of students’ realities and life,” he said.
The students are wary that hostel fees will be charged once they go back to their engineering institutes, while AICTE has said that the full scholarship will resume after the students return to campuses.
The government’s reasoning that there should be no maintenance expenditure incurred because of online classes has been met with condemnation. “The reason for freezing of maintenance charges is illogical,” said a statement issued by Students’ Federation of India. “Maintenance charges should have been disbursed for coping with the online education but taking physical classes as an excuse, the department has chosen to freeze them. The non-disbursal of full scholarship will also lead to drop-outs from the colleges.”
The scholarship is given on the basis of need and merit to the students having family income of less than Rs 8 lakh. “Every year, students from lower economic background depend entirely on the scholarship for their higher studies and if denied the full scholarship, they will be forced to drop-out from the colleges,” the statement said.