With an eye on the Lok Sabha polls 2014, the Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs has decided to fund the educational expenses of Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribe students between Class V and X in the country, thereby relieving each state government of a burden of 200 crore annually. At present, the post-matriculation educational expenses are borne by the Centre while the state government funds the pre-matriculation educational costs.
Children of families whose annual income is 36,000 or less are provided financial assistance for education. The Union Ministry has written to all the states to submit a proposal stating the funds allocated under each of the heads along with the number of beneficiaries. Some of the heads under which educational assistance is provided to the students include hostel fee, maintenance fee, tuition fee, book grant and the much-publicised merit-based scholarships.
The merit- based scholarships are offered to girls of Class V to XII and to boys of Class IX to XII. The scholarship ranges from 100 to 150 per month for Class V to X, and 400 per month is given for Class IX to XII. The government pays 20 to 275 annually under book grant for students of Class V to X, respectively. As maintenance fee, students are given 40 per month. According to the figures collected from the Tribal Affairs department in West Bengal, nearly five lakh SC and ST students study in Class V to X.
Senior officials of the state backward classes welfare (BCW) department said the move comes as a piece of good news at a time when the state exchequer is in a very poor shape. Moreover, the state government can also use the money to fund various other developmental schemes for these children, they added. As per Census 2001, the SC population in West Bengal is 184.53 lakh, which constitute 23.02 per cent of the total state population.
Similarly, the number of ST population is 44.07 lakh, which is 5.5 per cent of the total state population. Though there has been no census of the OBC, their population in the state is estimated to be 3.19 crore, which is about 39 per cent of the total population of the state. Upendra Nath Biswas, minister in-charge of BCW, said the state was preparing the proposal that will be submitted this month.
Courtesy: The Indian Express