Despite being surrounded by controversy – a scam of Rs 63 crore was discovered by the then-Secretary (Department of Social Justice and Empowerment) last year – the Post-Mathematics Scholarship Scheme (PMSS) has seen a sharp rise in the number of Caste students looking for a timeline their interest. In fact, the numbers this year were the highest in four years. The center stopped funding it permanently in 2017-2018.
According to data obtained from the Department of Social Justice, 1.76.438 students from SC schools received PMSS benefits in 2020-21, compared to 2.04.783 in 2019-20. In 2018-2019, the number of such students was 2,30,716. However, in 2021-22, 2.44 lakh students have already applied under this scheme. The portal for registration under the scheme is open until March 31, 2022. The authorities expect about 2.50 students to benefit from the program this year. Freeship cards have been issued to around 2.02 lakh students so far after scrutiny by the three-member committees at the subdivision level.
“When the center stopped funding this scheme entirely in 2017-2018, there was not much scrutiny. Many private colleges were indulging in fake admissions due to which the number of real SC students was much lower. In the past two or three years, after proper scrutiny , many things have been reviewed to ensure that only real SC students can benefit from this scheme,” said a senior official in the department, adding that fee caps had been started at private colleges.
“Early, if the course fee at government colleges was Rs 20,000, private colleges charged Rs 50,000 to Rs 60,000 for themselves. Now, there is no such disparity.
The officer attributed the scheme’s popularity to the free card and the transfer of money into student accounts.
Varjit Kaur, head of the Jalandhar unit at Punjab Students’ Union (PSU), and Mangaljit Panduri, press secretary for PSU, assure that due to the revised plan, there are now more checks and balances.
Dr. Gurpinder Singh Samra, Principal of Lyallpur Khalsa College, Jalandhar, who is also the Chairman of Guru Nanak Dev University (GNDU) Directors Association, Amritsar, points out that in their college this session, the number of students under PMSS has reached more than 1,300, which is higher than the year 1230 the past.
The number of SC students has registered an increase compared to previous years, said Ranbir Singh, President of PSU, at Government Colleges of Gurdaspur, Rupar, Vasilka and Faridkot. “Now we are waiting for the government to release the money in the students’ accounts so that the universities get the amount and issue the roll numbers for this semester’s exams,” Samra said, adding that the Punjab government has confirmed the payment of money to the state government. 40 per cent in two installments but this money has not yet been released.
What is the Freeship Card?
The free pass was introduced into the revised PMSS scheme by the central government. A card issued by State Governments or the Department of UT grants a student, who is eligible for a scholarship under this scheme, admission to any institution, without prepayment of tuition and hostel fees. This card should be issued only to those whose parents or guardians’ income from all sources does not exceed Rs.2.50 lakh annually during the past financial year.
What is the modified system?
This scheme was reviewed by the Center – Dr. BR Ambedkar SC PMSS – in October 2020 and is effective from the 2020-2021 academic session. The detailed guidelines were issued in March of this year, which states that the participation ratio is 60:40 between the center and the states. The center releases its share after the state does so. As in 2020-21, the overall liability of the scheme was Rs 378 crore, with Punjab State issuing its quota of Rs 153.81 crore and then the center issuing the remaining Rs 224 crore.
Earlier, this amount was released into two accounts where the tuition fee was used in the college account and the maintenance allowance used in the students account. But now the full amount is credited to the student’s account and then the student has to pay the college tuition fees from their account.
Earlier, the scheme was fully sponsored by the center until 2017-2018. In April 2018, the central government said that the state government and the UT administration would now take on the obligations of this scheme. The state can reimburse the amount if the total demand for the state exceeds the “obligated responsibility” for the final year, i.e. 2017-18 of the scheme period.
Punjab still owes a great balance to colleges
According to the Department of Social Justice, the balance of Rs 1,563.77 crore for Punjab Private and Government Colleges and Aid, is pending towards the state government from the year 2017-18 to 2019-20. Former Prime Minister Amarinder Singh wrote to the Center that the state does not have the means to assume this responsibility of Rs 4,00 to 5,00 crore per annum and the Center has to repay the outstanding amount for a period of three years. But Punjab did not meet the 2018 PMSS requirement because its annual liability in these three years (before the revised policy appeared in 2020) was less than the ‘committed liability’ for the final year.