While the Covid pandemic forced an increase in expenditure on public health, it has also led to reduced expenditure on the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC)’s scholarship scheme for meritorious students of Class X and Class XII.
The PMC started its scholarship scheme for meritorious students of Class X and Class XII in the city in 2011. The scheme of Rs 15,000 for Class X students was named after Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and scholarship of Rs 25,000 for Class XII students was named as the Lokshahir Annabhau Sathe scheme.
The eligibility for scholarship was a minimum score of 80 per cent for students from open category, 70 per cent for students from reserved category and 65 per cent for students with 40 per cent disability.
Additionally, the Shardabai Pawar scholarship scheme is implemented for civic school students who pass with 85 per cent in class X and 80 per cent in class XII. The scholarship amount of Rs 51,000 each is given to eligible students.
The civic body scheme had been receiving good response from citizens since its inception and the PMC had to divert funds from other budgetary allocation to meet the expenditure on scholarship every year. However, the expenditure on scholarship has reduced during the pandemic.
Before the pandemic, the PMC had to shell out Rs 21 crore from 2016 to 2019 to meet the expenditure for implementing the scholarship scheme but it dropped to Rs 15.08 crore in 2019-20 and Rs 17.88 crore in 2020-21.
In 2019-20 and 2020-21, there were 6,020 and 7,526 class X beneficiaries respectively as against 8,669 in 2018-19 before the pandemic. Similarly, the Class XII beneficiaries were 2,420 and 2,640 in 2019-20 and 2020-21 respectively as against 3,487 in 2018-19.
“The number of applicants for scholarship schemes has reduced since the start of the pandemic. This even though the results for Class X and Class XII were good. It might be due to students’ apprehension in stepping outside to complete the process for scholarship,” said a civic officer.
Meanwhile, elected representatives in the Women and Children Welfare committee of PMC urged the civic administration to extend the scholarship scheme for all students who clear Class X and XII with a minimum of 60 per cent marks. They passed the resolution to change the eligibility criteria to a minimum 60 per cent scoring percentage.
“The current eligibility of 80 per cent for open category and 70 per cent for reserved category students is keeping many students from getting the scholarship. It is adversely affecting the self confidence of students. So, the scholarship criteria should be reduced to a minimum of 60 per cent score for all category students of Class X and Class XII. It will encourage more students in their studies,” the resolution stated.
Municipal commissioner Vikram Kumar said the civic administration is not in favor of bringing down the eligibility criteria to 60 per cent for scholarships.
“The PMC has suffered from shortage of funds in the last few years while implementing the scholarship scheme and had to draw from funds meant for other works.
Further, the budgetary allocation is likely to fall short by a large amount considering 23 new villages have been merged in PMC, which will increase the number of beneficiaries for the scheme. If the eligibility is brought down to 60 per cent then the expenditure on scholarship is likely to double,” he said.