Ensuring school education for all children is an important policy objective in India. Our progress in this was disturbed in recent times by the pandemic which increased the number of drop-outs for some time while the adverse impact on learning attainments was even more durable.
Poverty is without doubt one of the major factors which hinders the completion of school education by children. Hence pre-matric scholarships for weaker sections have an important role in facilitating the completion of school education and in providing the base for further continuation of education.
However in order to fulfill this enabling role, it is important to ensure that these scholarships should reach students in time. Unfortunately there have been several problems regarding this and these scholarships of great importance for students from weaker sections have been often delayed and arrear payments have piled up from time to time. At the same time there has been frequent discussion about sorting out the difficulties and taking proper remedial action.
Despite this the financial year 2022-23 has been particularly difficult from this point of view, as indicated by the data on the actual spending under this head. In the case of students from other backward classes, an allocation of INR 478 crore had been made in the budget for 2022-23 under PM Yasasvi scheme but the actual expenditure statistics indicate that no expenditure had been incurred on this at all during the first nine months of this financial year up to December 2022. In the case of students from scheduled castes only about 0.1% of the original allocation funds were spent during these nine months. In the case of the students from minorities an allocation of INR 1400 crore was made for 2022-23 but up to December 31, 2022, the actual expenditure during nine months was only INR 44 crore, or just 3 per cent of the original allocation. So in summary form, the expenditure on pre-matric scholarships during the first nine months of financial year 2022-23 was 3 per cent of the original allocation for minorities, 0.1 per cent for scheduled castes and zero for OBCs.
In the case of scheduled tribes, the original allocation in 2022-23 was INR 419 crore which was reduced in the revised estimate of this year to INR 357 crore. The allocation for 2023-24 for pre-matric scholarship for scheduled tribe students is INR 412 crore which is less than the actual expenditure for this in 2019-20 which was INR 440 crore. In the case of SC students, the expenditure for this was INR 570 crore in 2021-22 but this was reduced to INR 500 crore in the original allocations for 2022-23 and 2023-24. Cuts in scholarships for lower classes may have been a factor. Scholarships for minorities faced perhaps the biggest cut. While the actual expenditure in 2019-20 was 1325 crore and original budget allocation in 2022-23 was INR 1425 crore, the revised estimate for 2022-23 dropped rapidly to INR 557 crore while the allocation for 2023-24 dropped further to INR 433 crore. In the case of OBCs the allocation for pre-matric scholarships has come down to INR 281 crore in 2023-24 compared to INR 478 crore in the previous year.
Clearly when there are sharp declines in revised estimates and then actual expenditure is so low for 9 months this causes problems for students. Such distress and disruption for students should be avoided by taking appropriate remedial measures with a sense of urgency.
Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Man over Machine (Gandhiji’s Legacy for Our Times, Protecting Earth for Children and A Day in 2071.