CARRYING FORWARD visionary BR Ambedkar’s dream of providing quality education to Dalit students, the state has taken up initiatives to ensure that the aspiration of these students don’t remain a dream, but turn into a reality.
The State’s Department of Social Welfare has projected numbers that indicate certainly a sign of progression—303 Dalit students sent from various parts of Maharashtra to the US, UK and Australia to pursue higher studies from 2003 to now. It is a feather on the state’s cap as Maharashtra, so far, has been leading in this exercise, Department of Social Welfare officials point out.
The overseas scholarship scheme for Scheduled Caste (SC) students (Dalits) was set up in the state in 2003 and 50 students have been sponsored for studies abroad every year. An approximate budget of Rs 30 crore is allocated for the purpose. This year too, 14 students have been shortlisted from the state to study abroad.
“Out of the 50 scholarships, a total of 24 are for admission to PG courses, the remaining scholarships are for PhD courses. However, there are few takers for scholarships reserved for admission to the PhD course at universities and so, we are proposing some revision in the scheme that would allow more students to take admission for the PG courses at universities abroad,” Piyush Singh, Commissioner, Department of Social Welfare, told The Indian Express.
“The criteria for applying for an overseas scholarship is that the Dalit students’ family’s income should be up to Rs two lakh and he/she must secure admission to any of the top 100 institutions abroad. Since there are few takers for the PhD courses, we are planning to make changes so that those students on the waiting list for a scholarship to a PG course abroad can benefit. There are at least 25 candidates on the waiting list,” Singh pointed out.
The scholarship scheme is an initiative of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and each state’s social welfare department conducts the exercise of listing meritorious candidates every year.
Ensuring access to education is one of the objectives to empower Dalits, says Dr Siddharth Dhende, a Republican Party of India leader who works with Dalit Adivasi Adhikar Andolan. While statistics paint a positive picture, Dalit students still are a minor chunk who are receiving these freeships from among the 11 crore population in the state, he said.