This year, nearly 83% of the picks for the state’s scholarship programme to study abroad were chosen without considering their annual family income.
The scholarship, instituted in 2003, is allotted to a maximum of 50 students a year from Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Dalit backgrounds for post-graduate and PhD degrees in any of the world’s top 300 universities. But it seems to be largely helping those from the creamy layer.
The BJP-led state government amended norms in June 2015 to scrap the maximum Rs6 lakh annual family income criteria for students who get admission in any of the top 100 universities, according to the QS world university rankings, to be eligible for the scholarship. For those who have secured admission to universities that are not in the top 100, however, the annual family income must be below Rs6 lakh in order to qualify for the scholarship.
Since 2015, the state has awarded the scholarship to 160 students, of which 85, or about 53%, studied in the top 100 universities, according to government resolutions of the social justice and special assistance department.
This year alone, 29 of the 35 students chosen secured admissions to the top 100 universities and did not undergo an income criteria qualification.
Dinesh Waghmare, secretary, social justice department, said, “The rationale behind scrapping the income cap for the 100 best universities was that while students were taking the benefit of this scholarship, not many students were going to top universities. The reason behind this was the income limit.”
“The economically weak sections do not have access to opportunities that will enable them to study well for competitive exams, write their essays and Statements of Purpose well and secure admission to the best universities. In simpler words, as compared to a farmer’s son, a teacher’s son will always be at an advantage,” he said.
The state government has chosen Waghmare’s son, Antariksh, for the scholarship this year to pursue a two-year Masters in Science in Information System from the University of Pennsylvania.
Besides Antariksh, Sameer, son of Joint Director Technical Education Dayanand Meshram, and Shruti, social justice minister Rajkumar Badole’s daughter, also figured on the list.
After much backlash, Shruti decided to give up her scholarship.
Milind Kamble, chairman of the Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said, “It is time for those who are economically empowered to give up reservations and scholarships and make way for people who really need them. My daughter, too, refused scholarships right since school and has never applied anywhere through a reserved category. If I am giving it up, it means the opportunity will go to a deserving and needy candidate.”