More than 50 students from Jammu and Kashmir, studying in a private engineering college here under a centrally sponsored scholarship scheme, were left high and dry two days ago when the college authorities announced that they would have to leave the college or pay the fees within 10 days because the central government had failed to provide funds for their education.
The 54 students, including two girls, are currently in their second year of BTech at the Indo-Global College of Engineering, which is affiliated to the Punjab Technical University.
They reached New Delhi on Wednesday to meet officials of the Ministry of Human Resource Development and the All India Council for Technical Education, which is the nodal agency for implementing the PM’s Special Scholarship Scheme initiated by the UPA government in 2010.
“We have been left in the lurch. If we leave the course midway, we would have wasted two years of our life. Most of us cannot afford to pay for the course. We should never have been inducted in this scheme. It seems the government has played a cruel joke on us,” said a student not wishing to be named.
The scholarship scheme was supposed to cover their tuition and hostel fees, books and some other expenses for all four years of the course.
There are currently 85 J&K students studying in BTech second year in the college. A college official said that the AICTE, under the agreement, was supposed to release funds for all students but they had not received a penny in the last two years.
Recently, the council agreed to release the fees of 31 students. On Monday, the college authorities called all of them and asked the remaining 54 students to either pay their dues by February 10 or leave the college. This created panic among the students and they took a bus to Delhi from Chandigarh on Tuesday night.
They reached Delhi early in the morning and headed to the AICTE and MHRD offices. While they could not meet HRD Minister Smriti Irani, they managed to have a word with senior officials and learnt that students under the scholarship scheme all across the country were facing an uncertain future.
“We had planned to launch a protest here. But we learnt that similar victims from all over are coming here and creating scenes. The officials are helpless, they said that there are no funds left for the scheme and we would have to quit,” said one of the students who are currently camping in the Jama Masjid.
They added that the college was not to be blamed “as they made all efforts to keep us enrolled and bore all our expenses for the past two years. They were left with no choice once the ministry refused to pay them,” the student said.
A college official said that all colleges implementing this scheme were facing the problem. Aound 5,000 students from poor families of J&K were placed with different higher education institutes in the country over the last several years.
Students had met with same fate in September 2013
In September 2013, more than 80 Jammu and Kashmir students studying in Cambridge College of Engineering, Fatehgarh Sahib, faced a similar situation as the college shut down. A few of them later joined the Indo Global College of Engineering to continue their studies, but had to pay their fees. “In J&K, several NGOs had launched a drive to identify needy students and get them enrolled in this scheme, after taking Rs 25,000 from them. The scheme was announced by the Centre as part of a rehabilitation package for the state, but now we realise, we have been cheated on a large-scale level,” said one of them.
Meanwhile, the students camping in Delhi said that they cannot afford staying in Delhi, and would be returning to the college on Thursday. “We spent the entire night travelling so that we could return early instead of staying here as we have no money left,” they said.
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