Rajkot — which also happens to be Chief Minister Vijay Rupani’s constituency — has topped all 33 districts in the state in availing the schemes of Gujarat Unreserved Education and Economic Development Corporation (GUEEDC) in around a year.
The GUEEDC was set up by the state government in October 2017 in the wake of the quota stir by Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti, however, the eight financial assistance schemes for the unreserved and economically-weaker sections under it was launched nearly a year later, on August 15, 2018.
The eight schemes — education, training scheme for competitive exams, foreign education, food bill, coaching help, coaching help scheme for JEE-GUJCET-NEET, self employment and interest help scheme for graduate doctors, lawyers and technical graduates — are meant for those belonging to the unreserved classes with an annual family income of Rs 4.5 to Rs 6 lakh.
Wooing upper castes post Patidar stir
Following the August 2015 Patidar reservation agitation, led by Hardik Patel - now a Congress leader - the BJP government had declared a 10 per cent reservation for the economically-backward classes among the higher castes through an Ordinance in 2016. This was, however, turned down by the Gujarat High Court. With the agitation declining to subside and the state Assembly elections scheduled for December 2017, the BJP government came out with the GUEEDC, just a couple of months ahead of the polls. And now from the number of beneficiaries, who have availed these financial support programmes, it seems that the corporation has in a way succeeded in serving the purpose.
According to the data accessed by The Indian Express, out of a total of 19,397 beneficiaries from the launch till June 17, 2019, nearly 20 per cent are from Rajkot alone.
As many as 3,852 beneficiaries are from Rajkot and the highest takers are for the food bill. Out of a total of 15,540 takers for the food bill across the state, 3,384 – over 21 per cent – are from Rajkot alone. Under the food bill scheme, a monthly assistance of Rs 1,200 is offered to medical, dental, technical and para-medical students for 10 months each academic session. It is also open for girls studying in Class IX to XII.
For coaching help, the share of Rajkot goes up to 25 per cent.
Not ruling out the possibility that among these beneficiaries, majority are Patidars, Rajkot in-charge of GUEEDC D N Ardeshana attributes the high number of takers to two-month-long rigorous awareness campaigns that were carried out even in the remotest parts of the district.
“Their community education centres like Leuva Patidar Kelavani Mandal hostel, where the students stay and study, were targeted during our awareness campaigns, which led to the highest takers from the Patidar community,” says Ardeshana, the district manager of Gujarat Scheduled Caste Development Corporation who has been appointed as the GUEEDC in-charge.
After Rajkot, Amreli has the second highest number of beneficiaries recorded for the food bill scheme.
The lowest takers are for the self-employment scheme with only 51 beneficiaries from across the state. The education scheme has the second least number of takers.
While GUEEDC Chairman B H Ghodasara claims that the rejection rate of applications is less than 2 per cent, sources have revealed that there are thousands of applications from students that do not fall in the eligibility criteria.
“We have approved 98 per cent of the total applications received so far. Less number of takers can also be attributed to other schemes like MYSY (Mukhyamantri Yuva Swavalamban Yojana). For the current year, we have decided to allow submission of applications for foreign and education loans throughout the year,” says Ghodasara.
It has been claimed that the schemes have covered nearly 60 castes and almost 90 per cent of the state population.