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Scholarship cash wait 

New Delhi: Thousands of underprivileged children who had cracked an entrance test for a monthly central government scholarship aimed at seeing them through four years of study till Class XII did not receive a single rupee in the past fiscal year.

According to minister Upendra Kushwaha, “unavailability of funds” got in the way of sanctioning the children’s paltry scholarship of Rs 500.

In a written reply to the Lok Sabha on November 21, the junior human resource development minister said only 2.1 lakh of the 3.3 lakh scholarships could be sanctioned in 2015-16 under the ministry’s National Means-cum-Merit Scholarship Scheme.

“Out of 337,893 NMMSS scholarships due for disbursement in 2015-16, only 210,012 scholarships could be sanctioned during 2015-16, thus leaving 127,881 scholarships pending for sanction due to unavailability of funds,” Kushwaha said.

Maharashtra accounts for the highest number of the “pending” scholarships – 25,000 -while over 15,000 children from Bengal did not receive their scholarship money over the last fiscal year, state government sources said.

There are fears that thousands more may not receive their scholarships this fiscal year as the budgetary allocation for the scheme was only Rs 35 crore for 2016-17.

In 2013-14, the government had allocated Rs 95 crore for the scheme. The amount dropped to Rs 70 crore the following year. The poor funding meant that not all the eligible students could be paid.

The government allocated Rs 131 crore in 2015-16 but, because of the amount pending in unpaid scholarship, the fund was found insufficient to cover all the 3.3 lakh students.

Aparna Mishra, nodal officer for the implementation of the scheme in Odisha, said nearly

11,000 students in the state had not received the scholarship over the last fiscal.

Mishra said hundreds of students had written to the nodal office about the delay.

“We have no answer. We had sent the list of students to the Union government. They should put the money in the bank accounts of the students,” she said.

The scheme, started in May 2008, seeks to provide scholarships every year to one lakh students who crack the entrance test while in Class VIII. The test is conducted by each state government, which sends the names of the selected students.

The test carries questions from the sciences, mathematics and the social sciences while assessing aptitudes such as reasoning and critical thinking.

Children from government and aided schools with a parental income less than Rs 1.5 lakh a year are allowed to apply for the scholarship.

Once selected, a student receives the scholarship till she completes Class XII, provided she doesn’t shift to a private school. She also needs to score 55 per cent in her Class IX and XI school exams and 60 per cent in her Class X board exam.

Under the scheme, each state has been allotted a certain number of scholarships for every batch. Uttar Pradesh, for example, has a quota of about 15,000 while Bengal’s quota is 7,250.

The states have to send the names of the selected students along with bank account numbers and other identity details to the human resource development ministry every year.

Mishra said these children needed the support because they came from socially and economically weaker backgrounds.

“These students do not have any backup support. They need the scholarship to pursue education properly,” she said.

Sources in the finance ministry said the HRD ministry had recently asked for an additional grant of Rs 250 crore for the scheme. The proposal is under consideration.

(Source: Telegraph by Basant Kumar Mohanty)

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