Covid-19 puts ‘casteless’ hostels plan on hold

Covid-19 puts ‘casteless’ hostels plan on hold

During the Covid-19 lockdown, many student hostels were converted into quarantine centres

Representative image. Credit: DH Photo

Citing cash crunch, the B S Yediyurappa administration has junked a Rs 100-crore plan to set up “casteless” hostels where students of all communities can live together. 

Vetoing this project, the Finance department said the Covid-19 pandemic had impacted the state’s revenue collection. 

“In the current financial situation, it is not possible to provide additional funds. Therefore, the proposed project has been deferred for two years,” the Finance department said in response to its concurrence sought by the Social Welfare department. 

These combined student hostels were to be started in every district for SC, ST, OBC, minority and general category students to live together. The project was formally announced with an outlay of Rs 100 crore in the 2019-20 budget by the then chief minister H D Kumaraswamy who headed the Congress-JD(S) coalition. 

This project of creating general hostels where students across caste and community could stay was intended to counter the long-held notion that the government itself promoted casteism through separate hostels for students belonging to different social groups.

According to sources, funding these general hostels was to be shared among the departments of Social Welfare, Backward Classes Welfare, Minority Welfare and Education. Also, there was no clarity on whether existing hostels should be converted into general ones. 

The state government runs 3,500 hostels across Karnataka out of which the Social Welfare department has 1,200 pre-matric and over 600 post-matric hostels for SC/ST students. The Backward Classes Welfare Department has 2,438 hostels for OBC students and the Minority Welfare department operates over 300 hostels. 

Also, the plan to introduce sweeping changes to root out corruption in the management of student hostels went into cold storage because of the pandemic. Former additional chief secretary Renuka Chidambaram’s report on revamping the hostels is yet to be taken up. 

Many projects, including the ones Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa announced in his 2020-21 budget, have been put on the backburner because of the Covid-19 pandemic and its resultant economic crisis.