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J&K students say maintenance fund under PM scholarship plan not being disbursed

Students say monthly sum of Rs 10,000 has not been disbursed since August. In letter to AICTE, a group has demanded 'full disbursal of maintenance charges for previous and upcoming semester'.

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New Delhi: Beneficiaries of the Prime Ministers Special Scholarship Scheme (PMSSS) have complained that they have not been receiving their monthly maintenance, as colleges are shut down since April due to the pandemic.

PMSSS is a scholarship awarded to students from Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh region when they seek admission in a college or university outside J&K. It is a fully funded scholarship that covers tuition fee and other charges.

Apart from tuition fee, which depends on the course, beneficiaries receive Rs 1 lakh as annual maintenance. Of this, Rs 20,000 is paid at the beginning of the session and the rest in the form of eight monthly instalments of Rs 10,000. This amount is meant for expenses like books, living, among others. The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) manages the scholarship.

This year, since students have not been going to college, the monthly sum of Rs 10,000 has not been disbursed since August. Beneficiaries of the scholarship say this amount is crucial for them as payment for online classes during the pandemic has been difficult.

In a letter to the AICTE last week which was then shared with the press, a group of PMSSS beneficiaries demanded “full disbursal of maintenance charges for previous and upcoming semester”.

Officials in the AICTE said they are following orders from the Ministry of Education (MoE), which instructed them to withhold maintenance amount until colleges reopen.

“We were told by the Ministry of Education to hold the maintenance funds for students because colleges were closed. But lately we have been getting a number of representations from students demanding the funds,” an AICTE official who handles PMSSS told ThePrint on condition of anonymity.

“We have written to the Ministry of Education last week, asking them allow us to release a fixed sum of Rs 20,000 to students for now, so that their needs can be met. Once they come back to college, the monthly Rs 10,000 sum will be resumed. The ministry is yet to take a call on this,” the officer added.

ThePrint emailed the MoE seeking a comment but there was no response until the time of publishing this report.

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What the students say

According to the students, inaccessibility to 4G internet in the Valley has made it difficult for them to attend online classes and they have been forced to spend extra money from their pockets.

“Online education, downloading study materials, research and project preparation etc is highly difficult with 2G internet in place. The students have to incur additional charges to buy extra data packs for the extended online classes and for the installation of broadband services and its monthly fee, if required,” Shahid Beg, a beneficiary of the scholarship, told ThePrint.

“Procurement of a feasible device for online education (phone/laptop) to cope up with online classes and also with projects and practicals in some courses is essential too,” he added.

PMSSS is awarded for both technical and non-technical courses.

Another student who didn’t wish to be named said, “Most colleges have started online classes from July-August. Even if students are not going to college, they are incurring cost in online classes. We should get reimbursed for the same.”

In their letter, the beneficiaries said, “The students whose parents belong to working class, who are daily wagers, labourers etc are highly affected as the chance of drop out becomes high and it is a cause of stress to students. Considering all these factors, we request the Prime Minister to look into the matter as this scholarship functions under his name and aegis. Kindly take this matter up and look into disbursal of the ‘full maintenance charges’ of the students for previous and upcoming semester with seriousness.”

The scholarship was launched in the 2011-12 academic session, with a view to integrate the students from J&K with the rest of the country. The government awards this scholarship to 5,000 students every year and the candidates are chosen on the basis of need and merit. Those with a family income of less than Rs 8 lakh per annum are eligible to apply.

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