With Punjab not receiving a single penny from the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment under the Scheduled Caste Post-Matric Scholarship Scheme in the past three years, the fate of nearly 6 lakh SC students, enrolled under the scheme, hangs in balance.
As the government portal to enroll beneficiaries for the financial year 2019-2020 was closed on January 17, the total fiscal liability of the state for the past three years has already crossed Rs 1,000 crore.
The liability includes the scholarship amount to be reimbursed to the colleges and the maintenance allowance for students.
Given the fiscal health of the state, anxiety has gripped the beneficiaries as the Centre has not responded to repeated reminders from the government regarding the payment of the amount.
The bone of contention between the Centre and state is the ratio of sharing the liability between the two.
Till 2016-2017, the scheme was fully sponsored by the Centre. The students were given provisional admissions, private colleges used to raise demand with the state, which would approach the Centre for reimbursement. From 2017-2018, the grant became the financial responsibility of the state — thus raising the state’s annual share under the scheme from Rs 60 crore to Rs 750 crore.
Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh has already written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Union Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry regarding the restoration of the old sharing pattern, under which states had to finance about 10 per cent only. The Chief Minister has already stated that the state government was totally committed to providing free education to SC students under the scheme.
The state has rejected the new proposed 60:40 fund-sharing pattern of the ministry for the scheme. But there has been no written word on the new proposal from the Centre so far, said a government functionary.
While Social Welfare Minister Sadhu Singh Dharamsot was not available for comments, Punjab Unaided College Association president Dr Anshu Kataria said, “If money is not being released for the scheme then why are students being registered on the portal. It would compound the problems for the colleges enrolling students under the scheme”.
Centre yet to clear dues
The state government has written to the Union Ministry of Social Welfare regarding the nearly Rs 300-crore amount pending under the SC Post-Matric Scholarship Scheme with the latter. This includes Rs100-crore maintenance allowance, pertaining to 2015-2016.