Punjab cabinet okays release of valid scholarship amount for sc students

Chandigarh, May 31: To ensure that SC students do not face hardship on account of the ongoing financial scrutiny into scholarship disbursement, the Punjab Cabinet on Thursday approved the release of funds to private educational institutions under the Post Matric Scholarship for Scheduled Castes to private educational institutions, while deciding the retain the objectionable amount with 9% penal interest.

The interest will be calculated as on date of release of the valid amount mentioned in the report of the audit being conducted to identify and address irregularities in the implementation of the scheme.

The decision was taken at a Cabinet meeting, chaired by Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, here.

The Cabinet has made it clear that the release of valid scholarship amount would not absolve the educational institutions of any criminal/civic liability for any irregularity found in the audit reports. The line departments would assist the Welfare Department in initiating legal and administrative action against the defaulter educational institutions by deputing adequate manpower for this purpose.

In cases where the objectionable amount is more than Rs.50 lakhs, the Punjab Cabinet has given the go-ahead for initiation of legal/criminal/administrative action by the Welfare Department immediately against the private educational institutions through the concerned line departments after issuing a show cause notice in each case.

Further administration/legal action would also be taken, as per the regulation of All India Council of Technical Education, Punjab Technical University and Medical Council of India etc., by the line departments, an official spokesperson disclosed after the Cabinet meeting.

The Cabinet has ruled out any reimbursement of scholarship through pick and choose policy of educational institutions, and has decided that available scholarship funds would only be released proportionately from the year 2015-16.

It may be recalled that the Chief Minister had ordered to conduct a special audit of the Post Matric Scholarship schemes by the Finance Department on June 16, 2017. The audit, being conducted by the Department’s Internal Audit Organization, is still in progress. The Department of Welfare had, till April 27, 2018, received audit reports based on audit carried out in 1535 government and private institutions out of a total of 3606, and an amount of Rs.372.80 crore had been found objectionable.

Incidentally, an amount of Rs.1615.79 crore as Central Assistance is still pending with the Government of India. The year wise details show that a demand of Rs.600.85 crore was raised for the year 2015-16, out of which Rs.272.13 crore was released and Rs.328.72 crore was still pending. Further, against the demand of Rs.719.52 crore for the year 2016-17 and Rs.567.55 crore for 2017-18, nothing was released.

The Post Matric Scholarship for Scheduled Castes is being implemented with central assistance with an objective to provide financial assistance to SC students studying at Post Matriculation and Post Secondary stages to enable them to complete their higher education. Under this scheme, scholarship is provided to the students studying in Post Matric classes +1, +2, Degree courses, Master Degree Courses, Medical and Technical, Professional and Management Courses, whose parental Annual Income does not exceed Rs.2.50 lakh per annum. The rates of maintenance allowance ranges from Rs.230 to Rs.1200 per month.