Maharashtra has the fifth highest Scheduled Caste population in the country, but when it comes to education, only 4.8 per cent of the students belonging to the community successfully complete their college. This, despite substantial sums of money being allocated in both state and Central budgets to improve the level of education among the community.
Documents accessed by The Indian Express under the RTI Act, as well as the latest report of the Comptroller and Accountant General (CAG), show various scholarships schemes are riddled with lacunae, often leading to non-disbursement of the scholarships.
Not distributing the scholarships on time often causes hardships for students, especially those in professional colleges. Though educational institutes are not supposed to charge tuition and other fees from students belonging to SC and other backward communities, the latter are often forced to pay up in the absence of the scholarship money. In fact, the CAG has noted that in seven of the nine districts they audited, educational institutes collected tuition fees worth Rs 15.67 crore from 64,440 SC and other backward community students in violation of the government’s orders.
In case of Savitribai Phule Pune University, a major issue noted during the scrutiny by the auditor general was the non-disbursement of scholarships. The AG, in its recent audit, had pulled up the university for its failure to disburse Rs 27.21 lakh since 2009-10 to students.
“In addition to this, an excess advance of Rs 74,246 and scholarship received in 2009-10 amounting to Rs 20,11,215 was also lying undisbursed and not refunded to the sanctioning authority even after a lapse of three years,” the report read. Also, though scholarships are now disbursed through an online system, Rs 12.57 lakh was still lying in the account as of March 2014.
While deserving students are deprived of scholarships in many cases, the CAG had pulled up colleges in Pune, Latur and Solapur for distributing scholarships, including maintenance allowance, tuition fee, examination fee and other fee to students who were not supposed to get them. “An amount of Rs 9.46 lakh was disbursed irregularly, to 27 students who were admitted through institutional-level quota,” the report read.
Social Welfare Commissioner Ranjitsingh Deol said efforts were being made to ensure colleges and other institutions did not ask these students to pay fees. He said steps had also been taken to reimburse the amounts paid by them. “We have taken action against such colleges. The students would get back their fees, which will be directly reimbursed to their accounts,” said Deol.
V Gargote, Finance and Account Officer of the Savitribai Phule Pune University, said: “The process of returning the undistributed scholarship amount is in process. There was a delay due to the difference in manual and computerised system of accounting in the treasury but that is being corrected. Very soon the entire amount will be returned to the sanctioning authority.”