The Dalit students of Lajpat Rai DAV College in Jagraon announced an agitation on Monday against a biometric attendance system installed by the college authorities for them.
The students alleged that a separate biometric fingerprint reader was started “only for SC/ST students” and the principal announced that “irregular students getting less than 90% attendance will not be given benefits under the central government’s post-matric scholarship scheme”. The scheme is only for SC/ST students.
College principal Dr Karan Sharma told The Indian Express that a separate biometric system was indeed started for SC/ST students but only after the college had received written orders from the Punjab education department to record attendance of students on biometric machine so that only deserving students would get scholarships. But owing to protests from the students, the system has been suspended till further instructions from the government, Sharma added.
“The letter that we had received from the state higher education department stated that we had to install a biometric machine for attendance of students who are beneficiaries of the scholarship scheme. We communicated this rule to the students and installed the machine. But now, since students are opposing it, we are suspending it from tomorrow. We have also written to the department now that till we do not get clearer instructions over it, we will not restart it,” said Principal Dr Karan Sharma.
The copy of the letter (with The Indian Express) issued from the office of Director of Education (colleges) in Punjab dated February 10 states that “all higher educational institutions and colleges are directed that biometric system for attendance be started for students so that only deserving and regular students get benefit of scholarship schemes”. However, the letter does not name any specific scholarship scheme.
It also clearly states that ‘Attendance of all students spanning across all courses and classes be recorded with biometric system’.
“Nowhere does the letter state that biometric has to be installed only for SC/ST students or beneficiaries of Post Matric Scholarship scheme. Why has our college specifically installed this machine for Dalit students only? We have not got a single penny under this scheme in the past three years and now, this new 90% attendance rule is imposed. We will be holding mass agitation on Tuesday against the principal,” said Karamjeet Singh, state finance secretary of Punjab students’ union and a student of the college.
Sharma, however, denied the 90 percent attendance allegation. “We told the students that it was mandatory to have 65% attendance to get the scholarship amount, not 90%. Yes, the details in the letter are ambiguous and thus, we have suspended the system till further instructions from the government,” he added.