Written by Ginminthang Shoute
The Post Matric Scholarship (PMS) Scheme primarily aims to provide financial assistance to the Tribals students studying at post matriculation or post-secondary stage to enable them to complete their education. This Centrally Sponsored Scheme can immensely help the Tribals in pursing their future careers. The scheme is not only an incentive, but also to serve the purpose of the social and economic needs of Tribal students for pursuing higher education.
The PMS Schemes for SCs and STs was launched by the Government of India way back in 1944-45. However, even after India celebrates its 60th year of Independence, the scheme fails to reach the tribal communities in its totality in Manipur. The Scheme was diluted and bound with red-tapism. Perhaps, nepotism is still the anthem of the Tribal Development department. The very department which was set up by the government to look after the affairs of the Tribal communities, i.e. Tribal Development department failed to deliver the Post-Matric Scholarship in its 100%. Instead, a paltry sum was sanctioned by the state government despite clear guidelines set-up by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India, New Delhi.
The manipulation in the PMS was not an accident. It was perpetually done in full knowledge and clear conscience of all concerned in the Department. One may ask "why this is allowed to happen for such a long time?" or "had anyone approach the government?" the answer is "Yes". This department has been approached a number of times over the last decade and even the Government of India had sent directives to the state government for implementing the Scheme. However, the situation remains the same.
As per the 'Regulations governing the award of PMS (effective from April 1, 2003)', students, whose parents income falls within the limit of Rs. 108,000/- per annum are eligible to apply. This ensures that, all eligible scholar are entitled to -
a) Maintenance Fee @ Rs 740/- to 235/- p.m. for Hostellers and Rs. 330/- to Rs.140/- p.m. for Day Scholars, plus,
b) Reimbursement of all compulsory non-refundable fees, incurred by the scholars at the time of admission, (The entire fee for Admission/ Enrollment, Tuition, Games, Library, Magazine, Medical Examination, Examination and other such as Study Tour Charges, Thesis Typing/ Printing charges and book allowance for students pursuing correspondence courses, for complete duration of the course which are paid by the scholar to the Institute /Board and/or University will be reimbursed by the govt. in the Scholarship).
The Government of India has various Scheme to assist STs Students in pursing their where PMS is just one of them. Besides PMS, there is another scheme known as the "Central Sector Scholarship" or "Top Class Education Scheme"
which can benefit the tribal students in pursuing job oriented career and change the life of our tribal communities.
The Central Sector Scholarship Scheme for ST Students launched by the Government of India in 2007-08 assures that, under this scheme, scholars whose parent's income falls within the limit of Rs. 2.00 lakh per annum would be eligible to get this benefit and study in most premium Institutes in the country. In all, 127 Top Class Colleges or Institutions have been identified by the Government of India which includes 52 Engineering Colleges or Institutes, 21 Management Colleges or Institutes, 5 Law Colleges, 13 Medicine/ Dentistry Institutes and 36 Colleges which are imparting Specialized Streams. Each Institute will enjoy 5 awards which can be increased subject to an overall capping of 635 scholarships per year.
Scholars who are studying in the above Institutes and selected for this scheme will enjoy assistance of –
• Tuition fee and other non-refundable fees limited to Rs.2.00 lakh p.a. per student for private sector institutions & Rs.3.72 lakh per student for the private sector flying clubs for Commercial Pilot Training,
• Living expenses up to the maximum ceiling of Rs. 2200/- per month per students, Books and stationery grants @ Rs.3000/- per annum per student and,
• Computer along with its accessories limited to Rs.45,000/- will be given as one time assistance during the course.
The Scheme will be funded by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs on 100% basis and the funds shall be released directly to the institution concerned in a single installment immediately after the admission.
Statistic shows that in 2005-06, the less payment in the PMS varies from Rs.740/- to Rs.1940/- for 1156 students of Churachandpur College; Rs.3,640/- to Rs.4,360/- for 938 students of Rayburn College and Rs.3840/- to Rs.4930/- for 321 students belonging to V.K. Tawna College, Churachandpur. Taking into account the scholarship sanctioned to 2516 students from 4 Colleges in Churachandpur, the less payment was amounting to Rs. 67,13,115/- (i.e. 57% of the deemed / payable scholarships). "Does anyone know where this huge sum of money had gone? Is it just written off or had it gone into the pockets of our public servants and Ministers so that we should ignore completely?" Mention may be made that till 1998-99, the maximum fee reimbursed by the Government of Manipur was Rs.500/- (fixed). Even now, the reimbursement for students pursuing Intermediate level remains at Rs.530/- only and for those at B.A, B.Sc. & B.Com 1st & 2nd year level are fixed at Rs.630/- and for 3rd year students the amount is fixed at Rs.760/- only. The deficit in the Scholarship for technical and professional courses are said to be at around Rs.10,000/- to Rs.15,000/- per head.
If anyone likes to pursue a professional or technical course as a career across India, it is always a gigantic task without having a healthy financial resource to meet their ends. In the process, the dreams and aspirations of many young lives have been shattered and their careers have been maimed by the government's apathy. And for those who are already pursuing such Technical or Professional courses across India, many families have already fall into debt trap as they have no alternative source to meet their fees and living expenses but, to borrow money from private money lender at usurious interest rate of 60% to 72% per annum. Had the government showed a little concern, all these would not have happened.
Have you ever imagined where those PMS monies for the year 2007-08 had gone? The Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India has shown in its Annual Report, 2007-08 that by December 31st, 2007 an amount of Rs.1348.78 lakh have been utilised by the Government of Manipur towards Post Matric Scholarship, Book Bank and upgradation of Merit of ST students for the year 2007-08, with a number of 36,501 beneficiaries. In reality, the Government of Manipur still has a problem to release the Post Matric Scholarship of 2007-08. But, where are those money and who are those 36,501 beneficiaries whom the Central government allegedly stated to enjoy Scholarship?
In order to implement the PMS, all tribal citizens have to be fully aware about the Scheme. One possible option that I can think of on 'how to enforce this Scheme 100%' is that one should not be just a beneficiary to accept whatever the government had sanctioned. Let us also see if the amount sanctioned in the PMS is inclusive of the Maintenance plus all the Fees. Secondly, the concerned Head of Institutions or Colleges can play a vital role by examining whether the Scholarships sanctioned to the ST students are matching the fees + maintenance fees. No scholarship shall be less than the total of compulsory fees taken by the Institute or College in a particular year. If such case arises, the concern authority should immediately ask the concerned authority for clarification.
Today, I talk about the subject and the society at large as we have been gagged and cheated by our own government for too long and this needed to be exposed. The Government of Manipur cannot dictate us the career we should pursue or silently remain in cocoons by claiming a lion's share in our Scholarships. It is our legitimate right to be developed and educated. It is our right to earn and enjoy a decent livelihood like anyone else. If anyone ever felt that "we have suffered enough", it is the time to join hands and say, "we want our 100% share in the PMS Scheme".
Your time has come to speak out for what is right!.