Centre, state spar over norms, students hit

Chandigarh, June 25: The fate of lakhs of post-matric students from socially backward communities hangs in balance as the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre and the Congress government in Punjab spar over the scholarship scheme for SC students.

In April, the Union government changed the format of disbursing scholarship by basing it on the last contribution made by the state. The cash-strapped Punjab government, which has not received Centre’s contribution since 2014-15 for its failure to give utilisation certificates, says the new rules will allow it to receive just Rs 60.8 crore from the Centre (the amount it contributed in 2013-14). Against this, the total post-matric SC scholarship due in the last fiscal (2017-18) was Rs 781 crore.

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Since the only record of the money reimbursed by the state government to 3,606 private colleges in the state is of Rs 60.8 crore paid four years ago, it will get just this much from the Centre.

“With this, the financial burden of the scheme comes on the state. It will be difficult to shell out Rs 720 crore each year,” a senior officer in the Chief Minister’s Office told The Tribune. The Centre already owes Rs 1,627.14 crore to Punjab, which has not been released since 2014-15, he claimed. Even the change in rules, asking SC students to pay the fee and get refund from the state later, would hit them hard.

“We have now decided to recover the amount claimed by the private colleges under the scheme for the drop-out/discontinued students. The decision was taken in a meeting earlier this week,” he said.

“The audit of 1,831 colleges (of the total 3,606) has been done and we have found that Rs 438.80 crore disbursed to them is objectionable. Notices are being issued where excess amount paid is Rs 50 lakh or more.

The aim is to recover the amount, suspected to have been claimed fraudulently by the colleges,” the officer added.
Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment, Vijay Sampla, however, said the Centre had just released Rs 323 crore for the scholarship scheme.

“This amount has been released without getting any utilisation certificates, mainly because the SC students were suffering. The state, rather than diverting these funds, should use it to disburse scholarships,” he said.

Source Tribune India

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