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'Delay in GOI-PMS Application a Hurdle in Pursuing Higher Education for Dalits'

A student from TISS outlines troubles in getting funds under the Government of India Post Matric Scholarship.

Updated
My Report
4 min read
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Hindi Female

A year has passed since I started my post-graduation journey at Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) Mumbai. Even as the esteemed institution is known for liberal arts throughout the nation, the virtual experience of being a part of it has been nothing short of a rollercoaster ride, especially for the batch of 2020. Juggling our way through the absolute mayhem created due to the pandemic, as a batch, we have gradually stepped into the grim realities of the social sector.

Just as any group hardly presents itself as a homogenous one, the ‘virtual’ student community of my batch comprises students from all over India, coming from diverse socio-economic backgrounds, and we have been witness to a plethora of problems pertaining to the learning processes of the ‘new normal'.

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Every year, a significant group of students from TISS aspires to carry forward their higher education, primarily based on the financial aid provided by the Government of India Post Matric Scholarship (GOI-PMS). The application process is often time-consuming and varies from state to state. However, the incentive that it provides is more than often necessary for the students who take the labourious route to apply for the scholarship.

The decision to enrol myself in an institution like TISS was heavily dependant on the access to this opportunity.

Otherwise, being the only child to a Dalit family, residing in an urban space with an annual income less than Rs 2.5 lakh, a post-graduation from TISS would probably never be my first choice.

I have aspired to become the first post-graduate degree holder in my extended family. However, delays in administrative work and a lack of cooperation by government officials has made it tough for me to realise my dream and apply for the 2021-2022 session.

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Pandemic Made System Slower

For the last one year, I have been visiting government offices just to get my documentation cleared, to be eligible for the scholarship. First, it took me more than six months to transfer my caste certificate to a digital form, which is mandated to apply for the scholarship.

The rest of the procedure, which included my submission of application to the District Welfare Office in North 24 Parganas, West Bengal, took some time because the officer in-charge only accepted applications for institutes outside Bengal on Mondays.

This would not have been a problem if my fieldwork dates were not designated on the first two days of every week. Additionally, the pandemic disrupted the process, which was already known to be extremely slow. As per the information provided by another employee at the office on my last visit, more than 2,000 applications are pending at the district level for clearance alongside portal maintenance, due to which applications are delayed for 2021-2022 session.

The last update that I could access via the online portal was that my application for the session 2020-2021 has been verified at the district level and awaits disbursement of fund. Yet there is no notification by when I can apply for the next session, as the portal is still under maintenance.

Students I met at the District Welfare Office told me they were provided allotment numbers, but they did not receive funds. Officials told them that it would take some time to get the clearance from the Ministry.

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The situation is worse for students pursuing their courses outside the state of West Bengal such as myself. This entire process has been very discomforting because in the last year, I have missed important classes to visit the office, have had to negotiate with my fieldwork agency to shift dates and most importantly, lived in fear and anxiety caused by the thought of carrying the deadly virus back to my house and endangering my father’s health, who already has a nerve-related condition and on whose pension our family thrives.

Moreover, TISS also has a history of creating hindrances in handing over the final marksheet pertaining to the non-payment of fees by students qualified under GOIPMS. A perpetual feeling of uncertainty and insecurity burdens me and restrains me from utilising my full potential to learn from the course I am pursuing.

The worst part of all this was my inability to explain to others how important this scholarship is. I was judged for what I was wearing and was publicly humiliated for my relentless visits to get the work done. There is a lack of accountability and professional commitment on the state's end, and the central government pertaining to disbursement of GOIPMS's financial aid.

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Is this opportunity perceived as a privilege for which I have to sacrifice so much? Am I not supposed to study freely without the constant pressure of financial uncertainty? Would I have to face similar problems faced by my predecessors at TISS? Why is it that when recently, problems faced by students in receiving migration certificates from Calcutta University made it to the news and immediate action was taken, while the delay in processing applications of more than 2,000 scholarship aspirants makes no noise? Is this any less of a discrimination?

(All 'My Report' branded stories are submitted by citizen journalists to The Quint. Though The Quint inquires into the claims/allegations from all parties before publishing, the report and the views expressed above are the citizen journalist's own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for the same.)

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