New Delhi: There has not been much variation in the number of tribal students and targets fixed for 2020-21, 2021-22 and 2022-23 under the pre-matric scholarship scheme, according to a parliamentary standing committee report. These should have increased in view of the objective to minimise incidence of dropouts, said the report of the committee on social justice and empowerment, which was tabled in Lok Sabha on Monday.
With regard to the scheme, the committee said it was surprised to find that there has not been much variation in the number of beneficiaries and targets fixed for 2020-21, 2021-22 and 2022-23.
“In the year 2019-20, 14.51 lakh students got the scholarship, similarly in 2020-21, 14.46 lakh students got the scholarship and 12.7 lakh students have received the scholarship in 2021-22, and some of the remaining cases are reportedly under process,” it said.
The panel said after examination of these statistics, it feels that either population of tribal students in pre-matric classes has remained stagnant or the (social justice and empowerment) ministry has not made enough efforts to ensure that targets under the scheme are based on correct data regarding tribal population.
The committee said it was perturbed to note from state-wise coverage that either beneficiaries or funds released in some of the states such as Arunachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Puducherry, Telangana and Uttar Pradesh are shown as nil.
“The committee would like the ministry to analyse reasons for the number of students getting benefit of the scheme remaining stagnant as well as nil allotment of funds to some of the states/UTs (union territories),” the parliamentary panel report said.
Simultaneously, the ministry should take suitable steps to reach maximum number of tribal students so that they get the scheme’s benefit, it added. The panel said these allocations are further reduced in the Revised Estimate stage.
“In 2020-21, the allocation was reduced at the Revised Estimate stage from Rs 7355.76 crore to Rs 5472.50 and in 2021-22, it was reduced from Rs 7484.07 crore to Rs 6126.46 crore,” it said.
The parliamentary panel said it is “constrained to note that the projections of requisite funds made by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs are invariably reduced by the Ministry of Finance in the actual budgetary expenditure allocation”.
Further, the budgetary allocation for 2022-23 has been substantially reduced by the Ministry of Finance as the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, despite their projection of Rs 13208.52 crore, was granted Rs 8406.92 crore only, the panel said.
“The committee would therefore hope that the Ministry of Tribal Affairs would utilise available funds fully this year to achieve the targets and, in future, prepare a realistic budget, considering the experience and viability of revamped Schemes,” it said.
The parliamentary panel said 750 national fellowships are provided to the scheduled tribes (ST) students each year for pursuing higher studies such as MPhil and PhD.
“The committee is surprised to find that budgetary allocation/expenditure and target in 2020-21 and 2021-22 have remained the same i.e. Rs 120 crore and the budgetary allocation for 2022-23, has marginally increased to Rs 145 crore from Rs 120.00 crore,” it said.
The committee said it desires to be apprised of the reasons due to which the target of 750 fellowships has not been revised. It feels that the Ministry of Tribal Affairs should try to assess actual requirement of the fellowships and accordingly increase the number of fellowships offered to ST students so that students desirous of pursuing higher studies are able to realise their dreams of high education.