The Hooda administration loves to announce the welfare schemes it is undertaking for its citizens and the media laps it all up. However, in the last 10 years the state government's approach to encourage students to pursue academics and higher studies is questionable, both for its size, as well as intention.
Scholarships are essentially meant to be strictly based on merit for deserving students, however, there is also a need to support students from economically weaker backgrounds who do not have the means to pursue academics or get the opportunity for it. In these cases, the state must act on a welfare approach towards the weaker sections.
But if one takes a closer look at the government's stated intentions and what has been achieved, it certainly raises some serious questions. To understand this, let's take a look at the Scholarship schemes available to various sections of students for higher education in Haryana.
The state government offers several scholarships through the Department of Higher Education and their website lists the following schemes:
POST MATRIC SCHOLARSHIP TO THE STUDENTS BELONGING TO SCHEDULED CASTES AND SCHEDULED TRIBES
This is a Central government scholarship meant to encourage and support students from scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, to pursue higher education after finishing school. Being a Central government initiative, the budgeted amounts are higher than what most state sponsored schemes are.
The scheme offers Rs 300 p.m for undergraduate students and Rs 530 p.m for post graduate students. For students studying in hostels, the undergraduate students get Rs 570 p.m and post graduate students get Rs 820 p.m.
While this might sound attractive, the reality is that the amount is too meagre to really incentivise a student to study. Rs 300 p.m will barely pay for the student's bus fees for the month, let alone offer him an incentive to study further, especially when he is under pressure to help out in the fields to support the father and family instead.
But let's take a deeper look. The Budget-Expenditure chart as published on the website offers details from the period FY 05- 06, when the Hooda government took over till 2012-13.
In the year FY 05- 06, the budget was Rs 4.14 cr and the expenditure was Rs 4.14 cr; the number of beneficiaries was 14,750 students.
In FY 12- 13, the budget had risen to Rs 11.89 cr and the expenditure was Rs 11.89 cr. However, the beneficiaries were only 12,703 students! Now compare this with FY 05- 06 and you see that the budget has risen almost three times but the number of beneficiaries has actually dropped by 2,047 or a 13% drop.
This scheme is not one where there is a minimum performance bar to be achieved and only then the government will give the scholarship but is open to all students from the stated category and who are economically weak. Therefore, is it possible that in 7 years, the number of students have actually dropped? If so, then it's a very serious failure on part of the state government in not having done its part in encouraging more students to study further.
On the other hand, it raises other questions on why and how did the number drop, especially when the population is rising fast and there are greater number of students studying in FY 12- 13 than in FY 05- 06. Another thing, it is hard to believe that there are only 12,703 students from this category.
Now let's take a look at FY 11- 12. This year there was a massive jump in budget when compared to FY 05- 06, almost 4 times from Rs 4.14 cr to Rs 17.28 cr. But a closer look shows that while the money was there, the state government failed to give it to the students that needed it most. It spent only Rs 5.27 cr !
The total number of beneficiaries were only 11,784 students, again much less than in FY 05- 06 when the number of students benefitting was 14,750.
This goes to show how much the Hooda administration really cares for the students of schedule castes and tribes. Mr Chief Minister there is a lot of answering to do.
It doesn t end here, there s more.
POST MATRIC SCHOLARSHIP FOR WELFARE OF BACKWARD CLASSES
This again is a Central government scheme meant for the backward classes. Again, this is not merit based but welfare based. The scholarship offers Rs 210/- p.m to undergraduate students and Rs 335/- p.m to post graduate students. The undergraduate hostel students get Rs 400 p.m, while the postgraduate students get Rs 510/- p.m.
In FY 05- 06, the budget was Rs 1.65 cr and the number of student beneficiaries were 15,426. In FY 12- 13, the budget was increased by 4.5 times to Rs 7.65 cr but strangely the number of students only doubled to 30,244. Since the scholarship amounts have remained the same, how is it that the number of beneficiaries only doubled when the budget increased 4.5 times?
Then again if we look at FY 11- 12, we find that the budget has increased to Rs 4.10 cr and the beneficiaries was at an all-time high at 33,677.
The question is, how did the number of beneficiaries drop by 3,433 students or a 10% drop in FY 12- 13? Especially when every year, the number of students are increasing and not dropping! You have a lot to answer Mr Chief Minister.
Now let's take a look at:
HARYANA STATE MERITORIOUS INCENTIVE SCHEME FOR THE STUDENTS WHO ATTAIN MERIT POSITION IN CBSE ANNUAL EXAMS.
This is a state government scholarship given to 1 boy and 1 girl of class Xth and XIIth who have topped in CBSE. This is a merit based scholarship and therefore let's see the state government's commitment to encourage merit in the state.
The total budget in FY 08- 09 was only Rs 2,50,000/- only and only 4 students received this scholarship. This amount was increased to just Rs 6,50,000/- in FY 12- 13 and the number of student beneficiaries was 14.
The total budget allocated to meritorious students who will be the future of Haryana was only Rs 6,50,000/-! This is less than the petrol bills of many state departments. But our Chief Minister would like us to believe that the state is doing a lot for student academic excellence!
Now compare this with another scholarship program:
Stipend Scheme for the Welfare of grand children of Freedom Fighters
This is a state government scholarship meant as a welfare program to the grand children of freedom fighters. The first question is, why do the grand children of freedom fighters need to be supported by the state? Supporting the freedom fighter and their children is perfectly justified and correct, but what criteria justify the grand children for scholarship? If this were merit based, then one could still understand but this one isn't.
So let's look at the budget allocated for this scheme.
In FY 12- 13, the total amount allocated for this scholarship was Rs 20,00,000/-. Now compare this with Rs 6,50,000/- budget allocated for genuinely meritorious students who topped the state in CBSE!
The students that should be getting the higher scholarship allocation are actually 1/3rd of what the grand children of freedom fighters get! This lopsided priority is purely for political gains and not to encourage genuinely deserving students.
Now the Hooda government keeps making tall claims about supporting and encouraging students from the economically weaker sections or low income groups. So let's take a closer look and expose the hypocrisy.
LOWER INCOME GROUP (NON-PLAN)
This is a state government scholarship meant as a welfare program for the weaker section.
We all know that the number of poor people in the state is quite high and this is the section that needs most support, irrespective of which community, caste or creed they belong to. So let's see how serious the Hooda government is about its commitment to the poor.
In FY 05- 06, the total budget allocated was a paltry Rs 2,30,000/- and this amount was raised to a paltry Rs 7,00,000/- in FY 12- 13. In FY 05- 06 there were only 172 beneficiaries, however in FY 12- 13, the number of beneficiaries dropped to 158!
The number of students from the weaker sections have increased significantly from FY 05 till date, so how is it that the number of beneficiaries is just 158 and that too is less than the number in FY 05- 06?
Is this all the support that the state government wants to offer to children of its largest vote bank? This is nothing but lip service to the poor and needy.
Now compare this with minority appeasement for vote bank politics.
Merit-Cum-Means Scholarship for Minority Communities Students
In FY 12- 13, the total budget allocated for the minority community students was Rs 44,25,788/-. Compare this with Rs 7,00,000/- allocated for the general poor category, in the same period! This is pure vote bank politics and has nothing to do with helping the needy who are a much larger segment across all communities. Even the poor students are not spared.
Sorry Mr Chief Minister, your intentions and your priorities stand completely exposed!
It's now up to the people of Haryana to decide whether they want to continue with how things are or whether they would like to see a Naya Haryana, one that brings in a Nayi Soch.