Wednesday, February 28, 2018

TISS SC, ST students being discriminated, are disbursed scholarship equal to study cost in home district: Scholars

By Our Representative
In a strange disbursement of scholarship meant for deprived sections, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) students from scheduled castes or tribes (SCs or STs), or those blonging to other backward classes (OBCs), studying in TISS are learnt to be "eligible" to availing only the amount at par with other students from their home districts, doing a similar course in a local government college.
Bringing this to light, a 3,000-word statement signed by mainly by scholars and activists in support of the striking TISS students belonging to its four campuses, Mumbai, Tuljapur, Hyderabad and Gawhati, says, "This means that if a student from Bastar studies in TISS, his course cost would be only the fees that another student from Bastar has to pay."
Citing this as one of the several instances of discrimination against TISS' SC, ST and OBC students, the statement says, this suggests that there are clear cases of fund underutilisation. "For instance, a student from Chhattisgarh studying in TISS would get only Rs 7,500 as fees annually for doing a course in the institution, while the fees is almost Rs 1 lakh."
Calling the argument mindless and petty, the statement says, "Government authorities argue that this would prevent “discrimination’ in fund allocation for other students. There cannot be a special category of ‘premier’ and ‘non-premier’ institutions. All are being treated 'equal'..."
On strike since February 21, 2018, the protest is against the institute’s decision to stop aiding to those belonging SC, ST and OBCs 2016 onwards, the statement says, adding, "Such a situation of non-deliverance of substantial monetary assistance, despite being allocated from the Centre, has already led institutions like TISS into a perennial debt trap."
Instead of figuring out how to come out of the situation by engaging in negotiation with the government bodies and ministries, the statement says, TISS management has put "more pressure on the students to bring more money from their homes."
The statement says, "At the beginning of the 2017 academic year, the TISS administration suddenly announced that it would charge dining hall and hostel fees from everyone – including the Government of India-Post Matriculation Scholarship (GOI-PMS) students belonging to SC and ST categories."
"According to this circular, the students who were then in the second year of the two years masters programme also had to pay", the statement says, adding, "Though this issue has been consistently in debate since 2010 onwards in some form or other, it came up in a big way during the present Modi regime, when it began to target the scholarship to student from specific social groups."
Things started in 2015, says the statment, when the institute "withdrew financial aid to students belonging to the OBC (non-creamy layer), and statistics shows that the representation of OBCs in the institute has taken a hit."
The statement quotes an ST PhD student, Priyanka Sandilya, who in a letter to Jual Oram, the Minister of Tribal Affairs (MoTA), sais that Universities Grants Commission has dropped all the four campuses of TISS from the national list, "leaving them to lose their constitutional rights to avail scholarships", adding, "With the removal of TISS from the UGC list, many Adivasi Scholars enrolled for doctoral studies at TISS have been left staggering without any support."
According to the letter, "In the online application form, the name of TISS did not appear in the list of eligible universities, due to which, many ST students could not apply and some have applied leaving the Institute name blank... As ST students, we are eligible to apply under this scheme, but we are being deprived of being considered for the award of fellowship."
Among more than 150 persons who have signed the letter include TISS professors Chhaya Datar and Virginius Xaxa, former TISS professor Bela Bhatia, social scientist Prof Ghanshayam Shah, former IIT Mumbai professor Ram Puniyani, former Delhi university professor Shamshul Islam,  well known anthropologist Felix Padel, and others.

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