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Explained: Why MVA govt may shut Fadnavis’ DBT scheme for tribal students

The scheme envisaged transferring money directly to students studying in state-run tribal schools across Maharashtra as their food allowance and expenses to buy stationery, books and school uniforms.

Written by Vishwas Waghmode , Edited by Explained Desk | Mumbai |
Updated: February 23, 2021 8:25:31 am
Uddhav Thackeray with Devendra Fadnavis (Express Photo/File)

The Shiv Sena-Congress Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government Monday decided to put under review the previous BJP government’s decision of implementing the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) process for tribal students in residential schools.

What made the Maharashtra Government overturn the earlier BJP government’s initiative? We explain.

What was the DBT scheme implemented by the previous Devendra Fadnavis government?

The scheme which was launched by the previous BJP government envisaged transferring money directly to students studying in state-run tribal schools across Maharashtra as their food allowance and expenses to buy stationery, books and school uniforms. The move was undertaken to curb what were deemed as corrupt practices in the contracting system.

What was the need for the DBT system to be introduced?

The government used to float tenders and award work to a contractor to provide these items to tribal students. However, following complaints of purchases in the contracts and cases in courts, the process of purchasing items through contracts used to get delayed resulting in a subsequent delay in providing the materials and to students during the academic year.

Moreover, questions were also raised about the quality and standards of these products – with allegations of substandard material and corruption in the contract system.

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How many students benefitted from the scheme?

The Tribal Development Department of the state government runs 491 hostels, which currently house a total of 58,495 students (35,644 boys and 22,851 girl) from Scheduled Tribe communities. The hostels enable students from far-flung areas of the state to live and pursue their education in towns and cities. Each of these hostels is supposed to have an in-house canteen, which is contracted out.

Why was there opposition to DBT?

Following the introduction of the DBT, there were protests and agitations against the DBT system in the state. Members of the Legislative Assembly brought it to the notice of the House that there have been cases of health issues of the students as the advance money given to the students was not being used for their nutritious food and demanded cancellation of the scheme, added the official. Students claimed the amount being given to them was not enough to meet their monthly food bills.

What is the government’s plan now?

 In the backdrop of the demands, the Tribal Development Department of the government has set up a committee to study the effectiveness of the DBT process and whether the old system of awarding the contracts should be brought back.

The committee was formed under the chairmanship of Padmakar Valvi, former tribal minister, with five other members, including government officials, and to submit their report by the end of February. Officials said the committee has been asked to compare the implementation before and after the introduction of DBT to assess its effectiveness.

“The committee has been asked to visit some residential schools in Nandurbar, Gadchiroli, Palghar and other tribal areas and also interact with the students and their parents,” said an official. “So, while all old contract systems may not be brought back for all the items, it may be for some items depending on the findings of the committee,” said a senior official.

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