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Rs 83-cr scholarships returned: Govt's U-turn leaves social welfare dept in limbo

The state government’s U-turn on furbishing UID (Aadhaar) card number for securing scholarships by eligible students pursuing higher studies have put district social welfare officials in a quandary. Just a couple of days before getting the revised directives, Assistant Commissioner of Social Welfare Department (SWD), Pune district, returned funds worth Rs 83 crore assuming that the money would remain utilised as most of the students don’t have UID cards.


in A limbo: Officials working at the Social Welfare Department office in the city; (left) SWD Assistant Commissioner Ravindra Kadam Patil. Pics/Niranjan Medhekar

As per statistics, there are 25,000 students who fall in SC category and 30,000 in the OBC category in the district, and most of the students are yet to apply for UID cards. After realising that the total number of beneficiaries having UID cards was not more than 50 per cent, the SWD issued a Government Resolution (GR) on March 26, stating that the state had decided to exempt students from submitting Aadhaar details so that none of the eligible students are deprived of scholarship.


Uphill task: Following the latest directives from the state, Social Welfare Department office in the city is abuzz with activity

Stunned
SWD Assistant Commissioner Ravindra Kadam Patil said, “I got orders from the higher-ups in Mumbai to surrender Rs 36 crore reserved for SC scholarship and Rs 47 crore for OBC scholarships on March 24, as most of the students lacked UID number which was mandatory for claiming scholarship from this year. I returned the funds on the same day. But it startled me when the government announced that it was exempting students from submitting their Aadhaar card numbers to avail scholarships.”

Though the GR had no mention of a specific deadline to settle scholarship claims, Kadam Patil said his office received clear instructions from above to settle all claims till yesterday evening by submitting bills to the treasury.

“After getting today’s deadline for settling scholarship claims, me and my team of five have been working overnight. But despite our best efforts, all we are able to generate were bills worth Rs 26.48 crore,” he said yesterday.

Criticising state’s latest decision of giving UID concession to students, a senior SWD official said the government should not have waited this long if it had already decided to exempt students from submitting UID card details.

To implement Direct Cash Transfer (DCT) scheme through Aadhaar card details from February 1, which was further extended by a month, government selected six districts in the state including Pune. Since February, various student organisations have protested against making UID card information mandatory for allotting scholarship, especially after it came to the fore that issuing UID cards to thousands of students within a month’s time was next to impossible.

Clause unclear
While the SWD officials were worried about settling scholarship claims, officials from the state government claimed that exemption from submitting Aadhaar card details was only for those students who have registered for UID cards and have Enrollment Identification Number (EID). Surprisingly, this clause has no mention in the GR issued on March 26.

SWD State Secretary R D Shinde said, “Only those students having EID number will get their scholarship because even though getting UID is a long procedure, applying for UID cards and getting EID numbers is in students’ hands.”

When questioned how would district SWD offices allot scholarships to students, as most of the offices have returned the funds, Shinde said, “We have transferred adequate money to district treasuries to ensure that district SWD offices don’t face paucity of funds, and are in constant touch with the treasuries.” 

Did you know?
While students belonging to SC category get a 100 per cent fee waiver, those falling in the OBC students get 50 per cent concession through scholarships. There are around 75,000 beneficiaries in the entire district, including SC and OBC students, out of which only 20,000 were able to submit UID numbers. 

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