Kashmiri students seek PM’s intervention to release PM’s Special scholarship

Students allege that during lockdown the scholarship has been withheld on the ground that since they are at home, they do not need it. They point out that on the contrary, their expenses have gone up

Kashmiri students seek PM’s intervention to release PM’s Special scholarship
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Sanjukta Basu

Media reports in October this year claimed that the number of students from Jammu and Kashmir availing the benefit of Prime Minister’s Special Scholarship Scheme (PMSSS) had gone up by 74 percent compared to the previous year, and was the highest in six years, benefiting around 4,500 undergraduate students.

This significant jump was credited to the government’s better implementation of the scheme originally launched by the UPA II government in 2010. However, it has been alleged by a group of students that during the COVID pandemic the government failed to implement this scheme properly. Students of the odd semesters (1st, 3rd, 5th semesters of the undergraduate courses) have allegedly not received their scholarship amounts.

Two students from J & K , Nida, Syed Zeeshan Hyder and Ghabit Nabi, have appealed to the Government and sought the intervention of the PM to sort out the issue. Their appeal:

The Prime Minister’s Special Scholarship Scheme (PMSSS) was started with the objective of lifting the youth of Jammu and Kashmir from political turmoil of the valley and place them at various higher educational institutions across India to help them integrate with the mainstream. Students of economically weaker sections, who completed their 10th and 12th exams from J&K with merit and were interested in pursuing higher studies outside the Valley were provided with this scholarship. Approximately 5000 students benefit from the scheme every year.

Since the start of the odd semesters in August-September 2020 via online mode, the scholarship has not been disbursed fully. It covers two aspects of a student’s educational expenses, one part covers the tuition fees which is directly credited to the college, the other part is the maintenance fees which is credited to the student’s Aadhar linked bank account. In the last 5-6 months, out of the two components the maintenance fees have not been disbursed to our accounts.

We submitted our results and application as per requirement for the continuation of the scholarship but the same has not been processed which usually takes 40-45 days.

We have been trying to contact AICTE helpline numbers provided on their website but a response is hard to get. Several emails to the IDs mentioned on the AICTE website also remain unanswered. Some of us have raised grievance through the students’ portal but the response to that is always, "Student Scholarship in Process".

There was no update even on the AICTE portals. As evident from the screenshot, details of first 2 semesters are available but no update about the 3rd semester even five months after the semester started.

We made several calls to JKPMSS office holders in AICTE office and after many attempts we managed to speak to an office bearer on the phone who said that as per orders from the Ministry, students will not receive maintenance charges because the colleges are shut.

We were told that since we are not attending college physically and are studying from home, we do not need maintenance charges. We have not been able to find any such order anywhere on the Internet, and there was no official communication regarding the non-disbursal of the funds to us until the time of writing this appeal.

On December 16, after we had reached out to the Students Federation of India with our appeal that we got the first government communication which acknowledges that scholarship had been withheld, and promises to release parts of it. At the time of writing this report, no amount has been credited to our accounts.

This has put immense financial burden on the students and their families who belong to the economically weaker sections like daily wagerers, labourers etc continues. Some of us are being forced to drop out of college.

We would like to remind the administration about the unfortunate incident of a student of Lady Shree Ram college, Aishwarya Reddy, who was unable to cope with the financial crisis and was forced to end her life. Since we are already availing one scholarship, we cannot apply for any other scholarships, so we are really in a fix.

The situation raises several questions for which we have no answer. First, if college fee could be processed, why is the maintenance fees curtailed? Under what order is this decision taken, why are we not informed? Can a central scheme be suddenly stopped?

The explanation that we do not need maintenance charges because we are attending college in online mode is neither fair nor reasonable.

Online education does not mean we do not have to incur any expenses. Amidst the lockdown we had to spend on additional infrastructure like faster smart phones or laptop for accessing online classes. Considering the blockade of 4G internet in the Kashmir Valley, downloading materials, books, readings on 2G internet is almost impossible, so we have been forced to buy hard copies of text books and had to incur additional charges for extra data packs and / or installation of broadband services etc.

Secondly, as the lockdown was imposed, we had to temporarily return to our homes but many of us have not vacated the private hostels or PG accommodation or other rented accommodations for which we continue to pay the rent. Thirdly, there is no clarity when the colleges shall open and whether we would be paid any arrears or not.

Considering all these factors, we request the Prime Minister to look into the matter as this scholarship functions under his name and aegis.

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Published: 21 Dec 2020, 4:44 PM