'Govt's fee refund scheme a farce'
As per govt rules, SC students are eligible for a 100% fee rebate, while those belonging to OBC and VJNT deserve a 50% refund. Nearly 1.65 lakh students try every year, but hardly anyone gets it; social welfare dept cites manpower crunch as reason
For Baliram Ghuge, the lack of coordination between his college management and the State’s Social Welfare Department has proved costly. Parbhani resident Ghuge came to the city in 2008 to pursue a Diploma in Education (DEd).
After completion of studies, he was entitled to a 50 per cent rebate on the fees he paid to his college, as he belongs to the VJNT (Vimukta Jati and Nomadic Tribes) caste. He completed his studies in June 2010 with first class honours, but the college has still not refunded a single rupee yet.
“Despite following up with both Social Welfare Department and the college, I have not received a single rupee in last two years. Now, I am really fed up and lost hope that I will ever get my money.
I have come to the conclusion that the students’ scholarship scheme of the government is just a farce,” said Ghuge. Ghuge’s case is not an isolated one, but several students who have either passed out or are currently pursuing graduation or post graduation studies are facing a similar problem.
According to government rules, Scheduled Caste (SC) students are eligible for a 100 per cent fee waiver, while Other Backward Caste (OBC) and VJNT students are entitled to a 50 per cent waiver. As per the existing arrangement, the state government compensates a college for the fee charges on students from the reserved category.
With the Social Welfare Department receiving Rs 200 crores annually as scholarship grant from the state government to make sure that students belonging to SC, OBC, and VJNT castes can avail the benefit of higher education at minimal cost, the earnest question students are asking is why aren’t they receiving their scholarships.
According to Social Welfare Department’s Additional Commissioner Ravindra Kadam Patil, “The pending cases are mainly the fault of colleges, as the college administration doesn’t send us the scholarship requisition forms in time, which results in the rejection of the scholarship of students.”
With hundreds of students making a beeline at the Social Welfare Department’s city office daily, some still hope that they will receive the much-needed fee refund, as most of them come from poor families.
Patil, meanwhile, admitted that the social welfare department does not have the wherewithal to ensure distribution of scholarships on time. “The Pune district has 1,200 colleges and we receive around 1,65,000 scholarship applications from students every year. In this case it is really difficult to find out exactly why the claim has been denied. Either it has been denied from our side or the college is deliberately not facilitating the scholarship to students,” Patil said.
According to Patil, shortage of staff is hampering the process of disbursement, as five posts of officers and subordinate staff is vacant. “As an additional commissioner I have the responsibility to implement 41 different government schemes, of which one is the student scholarship scheme. So, I should have a class-two officer to whom I can assign the task of handling the scholarship process. But, my office is facing a manpower shortage,” said Patil who assumed charge at the department in October, this year.
No reply to RTI query
In March, this year, Suresh Dhivar, an M-Pharma student after passing out college filed an RTI query to ascertain who is responsible for the delay. But after nine months he still hasn’t received a reply from the Social Welfare Department. “I belong to the SC category and am entitled to 100% fee refund. But the college has still not given me Rs 45,000 of first year fee by saying the college has not received the scholarship grant,” said Dhivar.
When contacted MMPC’s Principal M J Patil said that the college has still not received the compensation for the academic year 2010-11. “Even after consistent follow-ups, we don’t receive the grant from the Social Welfare Department on time. Another similar case is pending since 2006-07. The college administration has no role to play in the delay, and as soon as we receive the grant we release it to the concerned students,” said MJ Patil.