A group of 45 students have accused a private training institute of attempting to defraud them of money they were to receive as beneficiaries of the Standard Training Assessment and Reward (STAR) scheme — a government-run education programme.
The students were supposed to receive Rs 10,000 from the government for having successfully completed a training course from a government-approved institute, but found to their dismay, that the institute had suddenly laid claim to a lion’s share of the amount Rs 8,000.
The central government’s STAR scheme was introduced by then finance minister P Chidambaram in 2013. It offered a reward of R10,000 to financially assist students who wished to learn vocational skills. The scheme operates through the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC).
Despite the scheme’s apparent good intentions, there doesn’t seem to be much clarity supporting it, as several of its beneficiaries recently discovered. A group of 45 third-year BMS students of S K Somaiya College in Vidyavihar had enrolled for a one-month course in retail management to be conducted by a government-approved institute, Deepak Jaggi’s Learning Joint Edumentors Pvt Ltd.
They were asked to pay Rs 1,000 for the course, with the assurance that the amount would be refunded to them irrespective even if they failed. They were told that if they cleared the course, they would get an extra Rs 1,000 as a reward.
The students had no idea that under the scheme, they were entitled to Rs 10,000, not just Rs 2,000. So, once the course was over, one of them checked their bank account and was surprised to discover Rs 10,000 had been deposited. But when the students tried to withdraw the amount, the training institute immediately turned up to claim 80 per cent for itself.
“The government deposited the amount in our accounts, which clearly means it is for us. We checked the NSDC website, and it states that a certain amount is to go to the training institute, but no particular figure is mentioned,” said one of the students, adding that they have been waiting for their course certificates since September but have not received those yet either.
Meanwhile, in the confusion, authorities at the Dadar branch of Punjab and Maharashtra Co-operative Bank froze the students’ accounts, and are currently waiting for the NSDC to clarify whom the money belongs to.
By the book
The NSDC website states that after assessment and certification, the monetary reward will be disbursed to the trainees’ accounts.
Those who choose to train with an institute on credit can pay back any pending amount to the institute, but the amount has to be agreed upon beforehand, and a suitable undertaking needs to be signed by the trainee and be accepted by the trainee’s bank.
Deepak Jaggi, the director of the Learning Joint Edumentors institute, claims that the students had already signed an agreement which specified that Rs 8,000 would go to the institute.
“The scheme states that the Rs 10,000 is meant to pay for the training programme that finally leads to the students getting a certificate approved by the government,” said Jaggi, adding that by that logic, the institute that had imparted the training should receive the money.
In fact, according to him, he had gone beyond the scheme’s requirements by offering an extra Rs 1,000 to students who passed the course. But the students said that the agreement had not specified an amount.
“We were never informed. We were made to sign an undertaking that said we will get Rs 2,000 from the institute, but no mention was made of the remaining Rs 8,000,” said a student. Their college is unable to help much either, said Sangeeta Kohli, principal of S K Somaiya college.
“These are educated students, they should have read the undertaking before signing it. We cannot help them in this matter but we will make sure that the institute pays them R2,000 as promised in the beginning,” she said.
The other side
Contradicting his own statement to some extent, Learning Joint Edumentors’ Director, Deepak Jaggi, said, “When I am making a profit, I see no reason to tell others how much I am getting exactly. I didn’t think it was important to tell the students how much money was coming and how much we’d be getting,” he said.
Jaggi added that the money would make up for the services provided to students, including Rs 1,000 to be paid per student to S K Somaiya college for the use of their premises.