Rs 59k cr for SC students' scholarship gets Cabinet nod

Cabinet nod to Rs 59,000 crore investment in Post-Matric Scholarship Scheme for SC students

This replaces the existing 'committed liability' system and brings greater involvement of the Central Govt

Representative image: iStock Photo

Promising "major and transformatory changes" in the centrally sponsored scheme ‘Post Matric Scholarship to students belonging to Scheduled Castes (PMS-SC)", Centre on Wednesday approved Rs 59,000 crore that will be spent for more than four crore SC students in next five years.

The focus of the scheme would be on enrolling the poorest students, timely payments, comprehensive accountability, continuous monitoring and total transparency.

After a meeting of the Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narenda Modi approved the changes, an official statement detailing the plans said a campaign will be launched to enroll the students, from the poorest households passing the 10th standard, in the higher education courses of their choice.

"It is estimated that 1.36 crore such poorest students, who are currently not continuing their education beyond 10th standards would be brought into the higher education system in the next five years," it said.

While the central Government would spend Rs 35,534 cr (60%) of the planned expenditure, the balance would be spent by the state governments.

The total expenditure incurred in the terminal year of the Five Year Plan under Centrally Sponsored Schemes of Scholarships is the committed liability of the states/UTs for every year of the subsequent Five Year Plan.

This made it mandatory for the states to compulsorily pitch in with this amount annually to receive any further central funding, which many states found difficult to comply with. A number of states had resented it and soon after the Modi government came to power for the second time, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment had begun working out the alternative. 

In the last two months, the matter was repeatedly flagged to the Prime Minister. Also the Centre's contribution in the scheme was resultantly coming down every year. A demand was made by the states to the Finance Ministry to revert to the 60:40 central-state funding pattern.

The Cabinet approval given on Wednesday is in sync with these demands. With this the Central Assistance which was around Rs 1100 crore annually during 2017-18 to 2019-20 would be increased more than five times to be around Rs 6000 crore annually during 2020-21 to 2025-26.  

The Post Matric Scholarship Scheme for Scheduled Castes allows students to pursue any post matriculation course starting from class 11th and onwards, with the government meeting the cost of education.

"The Central Govt is committed to give a big push and further impetus to this effort so that the GER (Higher Education) of SCs would reach up to the National standards within the 5 year period," the official statement said.

The scheme will be run on an online platform with robust cyber security measures that would assure transparency, accountability, efficiency, and timely delivery of the assistance without any delays. The states will undertake fool-proof verification of the eligibility, caste status, Aadhar identification and bank account details on the online portal.

Transfer of financial assistance to the students under the scheme shall be on DBT mode, and preferably using the Aadhar Enabled Payment System.

Starting from 2021-22, the Central share (60%) in the scheme would be released on DBT mode directly into the bank accounts of the students as per fixed time schedule, after ensuring that the concerned state government has released their share.

Monitoring mechanisms will be further strengthened through conduct of social audits, annual third party evaluation, and half-yearly self-audited reports from each institution.