Govt gets no word from students getting its foreign scholarships

Gave Rs 20 cr to 61 SC, ST beneficiaries, most of whom didn't care to keep in touch

Govt gets no word from students getting its foreign scholarships

Karnataka has been awarding scholarships to students from SC, ST communities for their foreign studies, but the scheme appears to have become a government-sponsored junket rather than a human resource building exercise.

The State Overseas Scholarships for SCs, STs is a classic example of an ill-designed government-sponsored education programme. Since 2001, the Social Welfare Department, which runs the scholarship scheme, has sanctioned at least Rs 20 crore to 61 SC/ST students for their foreign studies. A student must have a score of 60 per cent in the undergraduate programme to be eligible for the scholarship.

But the department has failed to keep a close watch on the students whether they actually pursue the studies for which they were awarded scholarships. The students cannot be blamed because the scheme itself is flawed.

Official sources said that except for two or three students, all others who had gone to the West for studies had stayed back and not bothered to inform the government about the status of their education. The department makes the beneficiaries sign a bond at the time of giving them the scholarship.

But the bond does not ask them to keep the government informed about their educational progress. There is no rule either that stipulates that students should return to the parent country and serve here for a few years.

No consequence

The bond is practically of no consequence as it does not have any binding clauses that require the students to complete the studies or return home once they graduate.

The only clause of any value is the one which states students would be considered defaulters if there is any violation of the guidelines. Students need not even produce a course completion certificate. The guidelines permit the officials to keep a check on the candidates only three years after their course is completed.

Interestingly, the government directly hands over the scholarship to students if they produce an admission letter from any foreign college.

Students are not bound to complete the studies if they avail themselves of scholarship. Most students have the option of choosing the most expensive accredited universities though the colleges or courses they enrol for may not be recognised.

In 2011, the rules for awarding the scholarship were relaxed to benefit more students. The government removed the particular streams of postgraduate courses for which students can enrol.

It also removed the cap of Rs 10 lakh and left it to the discretion of a high-level committee of officials to decide on the sum to be sanctioned.

A student is entitled to Rs six lakh a year as maintenance for a two-year course and Rs 1.5 lakh a year for books. Besides, two-way air tickets are sponsored. There is no cap on the tuition fee.
Official sources regretted the lack of checks and balances to ensure the scholarship is not misused. Except for a preliminary enquiry at the time of scrutinising the application, there is no checking to find whether students have enrolled in the courses they applied for.

Police to trace defaulters

The Social Welfare Department has declared only two or three scholarship cases as defaulters, and is likely to seek police’s help to trace them.

Suspicion first arose when the department sent feedback letters to the students’ addresses in Karnataka. But the letters were sent back, saying the students do not live at the said places.

The high-level committee may be asked to seek the help of the local police and file a defaulters case against the students. Sources in the department said the committee would take a final decision on the scholarships at its next meeting.

Central scheme more robust

The Union government’s scholarship programme has adequate checks and balances, compared to Karnataka’s.

The Centre gives scholarship to only 60 SC and 20 ST students. Besides, it takes into account only specific courses in seven streams of higher education for awarding the scholarship.

Not only that, the scholarship programme for SC, ST students is restricted to a few foreign colleges and universities.

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