Punjab has put Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badals pictures on a portal meant to register students for scholarship under the UPAs direct benefit transfer (DBT) scheme,setting the stage for another row between the state and Central government over welfare schemes in the run-up to Lok Sabha polls.
The state government had recently rejected Union Minister of State for Health Santosh Chaudharys diktat to remove Badals pictures from the 108 ambulance scheme and display the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) logo on the vehicles.
Now,the state has put Badals pictures on the Ashirwaad portal soon after its launch by the Department of Welfare of SC/BC and Minorities for receiving online applications to award scholarships to SC/BC and minority students. The move seems to suggest that Punjab would like to adopt the Central scheme. The state has a sizeable of SC population (29 per cent). The portal was opened after the National Informatics Centre generated user IDs of the institutes and enabled student logins on July 9,2013. The students can apply for the scholarship online,which will be followed by an online scrutiny by the concerned institute and sanctioning authority. The information will flow from the sanctioning authority to the concerned government department and the welfare department for approval of scholarship.
While the scholarship scheme for SC/BC students provides for 100 per cent Central assistance to the state governments and Union Territory administrations over and above the respective committed liability of the state/UT,in case of minorities the Centre-state share is in the ratio of 75:25. All three scholarships are covered under the DBT scheme of the UPA since January 1,2013.
A letter dated July 22 written by secretary of department of welfare Anurag Aggarwal to principal secretaries of departments of education,higher secondary education,technical education and medical education states that the portal Ashirwaad (www.punjabscholarships.gov.in) was launched on June 27,2013,for disbursal of scholarships directly to students or institutes bank accounts.
When contacted,Aggarwal said the scholarships are covered under the direct benefits transfer scheme but Punjab,too,has a substantial committed liability. Scholarships for SC/BCs is open an -ended scheme and Punjab has put in a major share to the tune of Rs 60 crore. The 2013-14 academic session has just started and the response is very good. Till last week,nearly 50,000 students registered on the portal. By October last week,we will know the total financial liability of the scholarships and the state may tell the Centre that it will run the scheme on its own funds, Aggarwal said.
Notably,leader of Opposition in the Punjab Assembly Sunil Jakhar has been accusing the Punjab government both within and outside the Assembly of diverting funds of Centrally-sponsored schemes towards its own schemes and programmes. He has also approached Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Union ministers for monitoring of the schemes.