They left the Valley with hope for a brighter future after the announcement of the Prime Minister's Special Scholarship Scheme in 2012 but hundreds of Kashmiri students are groping in the dark as funds are yet to reach them.
22-year-old Ferroz Ahmed, a Bachelors in Pharmacy student at a Greater Noida college, is too embarrassed to return home after his college authorities asked him to leave the course over non-payment of fees for which he was granted scholarship.
"Out of a total of 12 students who were admitted to the college, only two have got the scholarship money, that too only an annual Rs 30,000," said Ahmed, who hails from Kargil in Jammu and Kashmir. He had taken admission at Vishveshvarya College in 2012 under the AICTE scheme. The college fees for his course amounts to over Rs 1.50 lakh annually.
Ahmed has been running from pillar to post with the letter of termination of his course from the college as he seeks the help of local leaders to the state minister of education to get his scholarship money.
"Along with other students, I have taken a pit stop in Jammu for the past 25 days, trying to meet leaders and the minister. We have been assured help, but no one has given any confirmation so far. We cannot even go back home, there is too much pressure on us," he said.
"We cannot pay the fees, we are clueless as to what to do... our career and life is at stake," he said.
Ahmed is not alone. The same predicament is being faced by Hilal Ahmed Mir (21), who hails from Baramullah in J-K. He was inducted into a Bachelor of Dental Surgery course at the Meerut-based Kalka Dental College under the scholarship scheme in 2012.
"The college has not received the scholarship money from the concerned department. Now, they are not letting me complete the course or even sit for the examination," Mir claimed.
He also alleged that the college had made students like him sign affidavits saying that they would be allowed to sit for the examination only after they paid the fees of an yearly Rs 4 lakh. They have been asked to clear the fees out of their own pockets if the scholarship money is not received by March 31.
"A huge group of the affected students had in July last year met Union Ministers Pallam Raju, Farooq Abdullah and others who assured us that our problem would be solved.
"But nothing has been done yet. We cannot pay the fees as we can't afford it. What will we tell our parents? Students like me can't even return home because we left with dreams of becoming doctors and now everything has gone haywire. We are in great trouble now that we have signed affidavits under pressure," Mir claimed.
Malik Imtiyaz, the chairman of Peoples' Forum, a Kashmir -based NGO which had encouraged several students from the Valley to avail of the scholarships, has levelled allegations against AICTE and college authorities of misusing the funds allocated for the scheme.
"Scholarship has been drawn for students who are not even enrolled in the said college or are in some other college. How can colleges receive money for those students who are not studying there? And those students who require the money are being asked to leave or pay the fees?" Imtiyaz alleged. MORE PTI SHL MPB SHL GVS 03301014
The scheme, launched as part of the Rangarajan Committee recommendations and suggestions based on Interlocutors, initially started in 2010 but failed to pick up due to trust deficit among people and lack of awareness.
It was in 2011 after NGOs and voluntary groups encouraged people to send their children for studies outside the Valley, it drew attention.
Over 5000 Kashmiri students enrolled in various colleges across the country under the scheme in 2012. But over 500 such students were denied eligibility under the scheme were asked to leave their course middle of their term.
"For 2013, guidelines for the implementation of the scheme came late in July-August with minimum publicity. As per this only five students per college were to get scholarship while more than five students were already admitted in the colleges," Imtiyaz claimed.
The People's Forum chairman along with those students who faced problem in receiving their scholarship money registered a peaceful protest on March 3 and 4 outside the residence of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi seeking action in this regard.'
"We wanted to change the attitude of people from the Valley about the government and move ahead with a more positive attitude. But this is only making the situation go back to negativity," Imitiyaz said.
Sources in the HRD ministry said they are aware of the issue and they are trying to resolve the matter in "the larger interest of the students".
They said that since the institutes have failed to produce utilisation certificate of the scholarship amount released so far, the Ministry was unable to release the money for the next batch.
Sources said that several NGOs engaged in the scholarship programme have impaneled institutes which are not up to the mark and this is coming in the way of proper execution of the scholarship.