In what seems to be a blatant case of deception and corruption, nearly 960 educational institutions, including 100 engineering and medical colleges have been charged with submitting fake records, originally intended for Dalit and Tribal students to claim scholarships. The college authorities misappropriated funds worth Rs 45 Crore by submitting fake records of students who were actually dropouts.
This has resulted in the government’s decision to cut off scholarship funding by one third leaving the futures of thousands of applicants from SC/ST communities at stake. Adi Dravida and Tribal students whose family income is less than Rs 2- Rs 2.5 Lakh annually are provided scholarships under Post-Matric Scholarships (PMS), which cover their tuition fees, maintenance allowance and non-refundable deposits.
the futures of thousands of applicants from SC/ST communities are at stake.
According to reports, a total of 1,500 Crore was spent last year towards this scheme funded by the central and state governments. Last year, the funding was 127% more than what was spent in 2014-2015. A local fund audit was conducted in order to probe this unusual increase, whose final report said: “A total of 964 Colleges misappropriated funds by submitting 20 different types of fake records”.
This case of fraudulence and blatant corruption is part of a series of repeated attacks on students belonging to the SC/ST community whose futures are dependent on these scholarships. This is systematic and institutionalized violence by the management to take away their financial rights. By taking away the scholarship in a fraudulent manner the administrators are not only ensuring that students from marginalized sections are ill accommodated in the upper-caste educational milieu but are also forced to quit these exclusive spaces.
One of the students from Coimbatore who is a PMS applicant said, “We usually borrow money to pay for accommodation and repay it once scholarship amount is credited. If the government stops this, we will be forced to quit our studies”
We cannot ignore the pattern and similitude of these attacks to the larger violence meted out in educational spaces towards students belonging to marginalized communities. The institutional murder of Rohith Vemula at Hyderabad Central University (HCU) brought to fore the question of caste-based discrimination in educational spaces and the alienation of SC/ST students.
S. Anitha, a Dalit student from Tamil Nadu, was a medical aspirant who committed suicide over the unfair educational policy of the Indian government. How many more lives will the government need in order to make educational spaces accessible to all?
Apart from the violence, there is anti-reservation discrimination against SC/ST students by faculty, other students and administrators crediting their success to only reservation policy and not their hard work. There is a complete disregard of the years of caste-based violence, economic barriers and regional backwardness while talking about reservation.
How many more lives will the government need in order to make educational spaces accessible to all?
This inability to take into account inter-generational discrimination and marginalization and only crediting ‘merit’ makes it a futile act of talk on their part. The non-issue of reservation and scholarships then is made an issue to deflect from the real issues of misappropriation of funds, fund cuts, seat cuts, shrinking of the budget for public universities, privatization, etc.
Time and again countless attempts are being made to saffronize our academic spaces. The recent move being that of ‘complete autonomy’ of 62 higher education institutes in a bid to privatize and reduce academic spaces to commercial enterprises for generating profit.
These institutions will be implementing a revenue-generated model, which will result in detrimental effects on research funds, fees, student-teacher ratios, content and quality of syllabus, etc. ‘Autonomy’ then, is equal to the killing of diversity and accessibility of these spaces by excluding women and economically and socially disadvantaged sections. This will deepen the rift that already exists among students along gender, caste, class and religious lines.
There is a general anti-student, anti-education and anti-minority environment which will have adverse effects on the future of our country’s youth. This fatal blow of misappropriation of funds by the college management is one among many.
Featured Image Credit: The Marquette Educator