Karnataka govt for hike in OBC student hostel intake

Karnataka govt for hike in OBC student hostel intake

But cash-starved backward classes department red-flags move

In the Cabinet meeting held earlier this week, ministers sought a 20% increase in the accommodation in hostels.

After doling out cash benefits to farmers and waiving loans borrowed by fishermen and weavers, the B S Yediyurappa government is eyeing another populist move: increasing accommodation in hostels for backward classes students.

But the Backward Classes Welfare department, which runs these hostels, has red-flagged the move, citing fund crunch. In fact, the department does not have the money required to even renew scholarships this academic year, which could affect as many as 21 lakh students.

Karnataka has 2,438 hostels and 18 Ashram schools for backward classes, where 1,88,500 students are currently enrolled. Backward classes, or the OBCs, form a significant chunk of the population, and legislators often face pressure from them seeking their help in getting admissions into these hostels.



In the Cabinet meeting held earlier this week, ministers sought a 20% increase in the accommodation in hostels. Accordingly, the Backward Classes Welfare department was asked to prepare a formal proposal. "This will mean additional expenditure to create infrastructure to support the increase in hostels’ accommodation. For instance, the government incurs Rs 1,600 per student for food alone," a senior officer said, on condition of anonymity.

The Backward Classes Welfare department is already facing a Rs 500-crore shortfall in allocation and about half of the outlay goes towards scholarships (pre-matric and post-matric), Vidyasiri stipend and fee concession, the officer pointed out.

About 21 lakh students received scholarships and other benefits worth Rs 250 crore in the 2018-19 academic year. "When we sought release of funds to renew the scholarships, the Finance department declined and asked us to approach the Centre. The state government has been funding these scholarships all these years," the officer explained. "So, as it stands now, we don’t have the money for scholarships."

The government’s State Scholarship Portal is currently open for applications by SC and ST students only.

The government has also shot down a proposal to increase stipend under the Vidyasiri scheme. At present, poor OBC students get a monthly stipend of Rs 1,500 for 10 months towards accommodation and the department had proposed hiking this to Rs 2,000.

Adding to the paralysis is the fact that there is no minister for backward classes welfare, a portfolio Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa has retained with himself.

"We are awaiting directions from the government on how to move forward," Backward Classes Welfare Secretary Mohammed Mohsin told DH.