Amid an alleged scam in the scholarship scheme, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Saturday formally launched the recently announced state’s own Dr B R Ambedkar Post Matric SC Scholarship scheme, and also virtually laid the foundation stone of projects worth Rs 50 crore at Bhagwan Valmiki Tirath Sthal (Ram Tirath), Amritsar, to mark the auspicious occasion of the Maharishi Valmiki Jayanti.
Participating in the Valmiki Jayanti celebrations here, the CM also virtually inaugurated a new Ram Tirath ITI and gave the go-ahead for the establishment of a Skill Development Centre to prepare Dalit students for competitive exams. In addition, he announced an annual holiday under the Negotiable Instruments Act in remembrance of the great personality, and said that GNDU, Amritsar, will organise an annual seminar on Bhagwan Valmiki on the eve of his birth anniversary every year.
On the occasion, the CM distributed Post Matric SC Scholarship Certificates to SC students and congratulated the Valmiki Samaj on various schemes launched by the Technical Education and other departments for the Dalit community in the state. His government was committed to the welfare of the community, he added.
Only recently the government was on the defensive after the former secretary in social justice and minorities department had alleged a multi-crore scam in the scholarship scheme and accused Minister Sadhu Singh Dharamsot. Later, an inquiry by Chief Secretary Vini Mahajan gave a clean chit to the minister.
The CM said the state scholarship scheme will ensure that poor SC students get free higher education, which the Government of India had unfairly deprived them of with its abrupt withdrawal of Central aid of Rs 800 crore to the state. The Dr B R Ambedkar Post Matric SC Scholarship, being launched without any financial contribution from the Centre, will provide 100 per cent fee waiver for SC students to give them net savings of about Rs 550 crore, he said.
The scheme, which will benefit more than 3 lakh poor SC students every year, will involve no upfront payment by these students to government/private educational institutions. The institutes will provide free education to SC students under the scheme against direct subsidy from the state government, the CM announced, adding that the students will also get monthly stipend to buy books, uniforms etc.
Giving details of the Bhagwan Valmiki Tirath Sthal projects, the CM said these include a panorama on Maharishi Valmiki (Rs 25-30 crore), facade lights (Rs 10.9 crore), filtration plant in the Sarovar (Rs 4.75 crore), furniture for the sarai (Rs 2 crore) and construction of a parikrama (Rs 1.3 crore).
Virtually inaugurating the temporary campus of the ITI at Ram Tirath, Captain Amarinder said the institute will contribute to generating more jobs for youngsters. Around 90 trainees had so far been admitted to the institute, he announced, adding that the student strength will be raised to 240 by next year when the building will be renovated at a cost of Rs 1.82 crore and machinery worth Rs 3.5 crore will be procured. The number of courses will also be increased from the current four to nine, he added.
Technical Education Minister Charanjit Singh Channi said the institute will be developed as a state-of-the-art facility.
Earlier, MLA and Warehousing Corporation chairman Raj Kumar Verka castigated the Centre for stopping the Post Matric SC scholarships and thanked the CM for starting a new state scheme to compensate the students for the loss. Verka presented a specially created short film on the Valmiki Samaj on the occasion.
Several leading representatives of the Valmiki Sant Samaj were present at the celebration.