Senior officials of the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) government have embarked on a nationwide outreach programme to interact with students from the state who are studying across India. The initiative comes weeks after a spate of attacks on some Kashmiri students, in the wake of the Pulwama terror attack in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed in south Kashmir on February 14.
Though no such attacks on Kashmiri students have been reported from Pune so far, such cases were reported from Yavatmal, Dehradun and Jaipur, among other cities. As part of the initiative, a three-member team, led by Talat Parvez, secretary of Jammu and Kashmir’s Higher Education Department, was in the city on Wednesday. Members of the team held a closed-door interaction with over 500 Kashmiri students studying in Pune. The event was held at Sarhad College.
Parvez’s team has earlier visited educational institutions in Jaipur, Aligarh and New Delhi, where they held similar interactions with Kashmiri students. “We are here to interact with students and learn about their requirements, their problems and the challenges they face when studying in colleges outside J&K. We want to ensure that the students are ready to be inducted for jobs, and the necessary opportunities are available, once they are back home,” said Parvez.
“There are no skill universities in J&K… but, when we make such visits, we realise the important role played by such universities in providing hands-on training parallelly to students while they are pursuing their courses,” he added.
Jammu and Kashmir’s education department also plans to work towards improving awareness about the Prime Minister’s Special Scholarship Scheme (PMSSS) among students. This is a scholarship offered to students of J&K domicile after Class XII and it gives them a chance to pursue all kinds of courses as part of their higher education. Annually, 5,000 scholarships are given to students and the amount covers the tuition fees, mess charges, book costs and other expenses incurred by the students.
The highest number of scholarships are sought for pursuing engineering, followed by general studies, nursing, pharmacy and dental studies.
But the J&K administration feels that a lot more needs to be done to make these scholarships more popular among students, said Parvez.
“We need to increase government outreach and one way of doing so is to issue advertisements in newspapers and popular media, so that those eligible can benefit from the scholarship. Not all families can afford to send their children away for higher studies. Sometimes, we do not find eligible students taking up the scholarships and many scholarships don’t have enough applicants,” he said.
According to Sarmad Hafeez, secretary of Jammu and Kashmir’s Youth and Sports Department, the student exchange programmes were a great way to ensure cultural exchanges and bond with students and people from all parts of the country. Parvez said the government was also open to working with skill universities and colleges that offer IT courses, as there was a significant demand for such courses, which could ensure jobs for the students. “There can be an MoU or similar agreements, under which students from J&K can get trained here and be better job-ready,” he added.
During their interactions with the three-member panel, Kashmiri students studying in the city demanded setting up of colleges and universities, like those operating in other Indian cities, in their state. They also sought specialised courses like biomedical engineering, physiotherapy, nursing and allied medical courses in these colleges.