In August 2011, after the 2010 unrest in Kashmir, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (GOI) thought of ways to appease the people and tried to find out ways to do away with the future possibility of a similar unrest. The committee gauging the problem completely in economic terms prepared a lollipop for Kashmiri youth by approving a Special Scholarship Scheme for Jammu & Kashmir students to encourage them to pursue higher studies outside their parent State. The total corpus of the scheme was put to the tune of Rs.1200 crores of which Rs.88 crores were kept for the then financial year (2011-12).
Under the scholarship scheme, it was proposed to provide 5000 fresh scholarships every year over the following five years (benefitting a total of 25000 J&K students as such in the next five years). Of these every year, 4500 scholarships were kept for general degree courses, 250 for engineering and 250 for medical studies. Every scholar would get upto Rs.30000 per annum for tuition fees for general degree courses, upto Rs.1.25 lakh per annum for engineering courses and upto Rs.3 lakh per annum for medical studies. In addition to these, hostel fees and incidentals were also given for all categories of courses upto a ceiling of Rs. one lakh per annum.
The scheme as such was kept open to only those students who would be domiciles of the State of Jammu & Kashmir, who would have passed the Class XII or equivalent exam from the J&K Board and would be pursuing general degree courses, engineering, medical studies and other professional courses in Government colleges/ institutes/ other reputed institutes, located outside the State of Jammu & Kashmir. Moreover, only those students would be eligible for scholarship whose income ceiling would be Rs.4.5 lakhs per annum or below.
During fiscal 2011-12 the response to the scheme was dismal primarily due to the anemia of information about the same amongst the masses especially the student community. But, 2012 witnessed a sudden bloom of responses with the primary credit of that going to the NGOâ€™s and career consultancies which trumpeted the scheme loud enough to make it pronounced to the farthest of the corners of J&K, especially Kashmir. Since then an obnoxious bloom of such agencies (supposedly involved in facilitating the students to avail the fruits of this scholarship scheme) has been going on incessantly. They have been sending thousands of students outside the state to study. But this is not the only facet of the fairy tale; it has seemingly an ugly factual and realistic side too. What twitches the mind is as to what compelled so many NGOâ€™s and consultancies into this genre of philanthropy and student welfare all of a sudden, why do they involve in public blame games just to make a point that only their organization in the said endeavours is genuine and the foremost question, â€˜Is there any role for NGOâ€™s or consultancies as per the provisions and guidelines of the said schemeâ€™?
Coming to the answers, in the first place there is no role for any NGO or any other agency as such to register students or get them admitted, albeit disseminating information and making people aware about it, particularly the student fraternity from weaker sections of the society voluntarily is anyways a welcome and noble gesture, but, unfortunately, it has not been so, rather they have been functioning literally as admission departments of the universities liaisoned to them or with which they have an understanding.
To me, the biggest reason that could be ascribed to this is the corporate-social nexus, wherein, the NGOâ€™s/consultancies and universities with which they are dealing, are benefitting big time. On one hand, the universities/educational institutions get more admissions and GOI paying scholarship to the students admitted therein can be cached in by them in a big way by playing the credibility card. They can sell this thing in the market that they are credible enough and good enough that even GOI sends scholarships to the students studying therein and on the other hand the NGOâ€™s/consultancies involved are earning monetarily (by way of charging registration fee from the students and getting their share from the scholarship corpus received by the institutions) and are also getting acclaim among the masses as being considerate to them and being their well wishers.
This assertion is strengthened by the fact that these agencies have got the students admitted in only private institutions and not even a single government run institution has been involved as such. Secondly, these institutes have been charging from the students undue to them as per the provisions of the scheme, primarily in the name of registration with them, which is of no fun or use to them and not at all required in any way as such. Due to this, these agencies have been making big fortunes out of the poor and browbeaten students e.g. if the average charge of registration from a student by one agency amounts to 1500 INR and if they register only thousand poor and orphan students they raise up an amount to the tune of 1500000 INR. Moreover, there have been many accusations of corruption on the account of securing admissions despite poor percentage, giving a good course not in consonance with the percentage or performance of the students, getting students admitted in a nearby college or a college in a good city with good infrastructure or the one of their own choice, etc.
So from the above it is for sure deciphered that majority of these agencies in the guise of helping the student community are earning big time and the primary reason of the blame game and discrediting other such organizations is nothing but to trap in more students in their materialistic and vicious traps, just to maximize their petty self-interests and monetary benefits. As such their accounts must be socially audited if possible at all, just to see how much have they earned by befooling the innocent students and their families and should be brought to the book and made accountable to the masses if charges of nexus are proven against them.
The other important thing that needs to be considered here is that each year only 5000 students can avail the benefits of the scheme out of which only 250 each cases can be of medicine and engineering and the remaining 4500 can be for the general courses as such. Now that the agencies getting students admitted to a bag full of universities and colleges outside with maximum entries in medicine and engineering itself, we can easily imagine the gigantic number of students who wonâ€™t be able to get the scholarship after going outside and studying for a semester or two and will ultimately have to return empty handed with their dreams broken and it is not difficult and complex enough to visualize and imagine the repercussions of such a state of affairs. For instance (not more than two weeks ago) the students of Himalaya institute who were promised free admissions to various courses under the said scholarship scheme were kicked out of their institute just before their annual exams and were asked to pay their dues before they could even think of sitting in the exams as their scholarships had not come from the government till that date. The poor students (boys as well as girls) were pushed out and had to then spend the following night inside a Gurudwara over there and the next day when they protested the inhuman attitude of the authorities over there, they were beaten up callously and many of the students got hurt. Those bleeding pictures were so heart wrenching that I was compelled to call the registrar and chairman of that institution to get the students admitted back for the time being and a big thanks to other few responsible Kashmiries who supported me to get the students back inside their hostels. It must be noted here that fortunately but not consequently after that incident the government announced the list of students (admitted in 2012 in various institutes) whose scholarships had been approved. The number of students whose scholarships were disbursed till date is only 1150 (approx) whereas more than 4000 students were sent last year, which means the future of nearly 3000 odd ones from last year is still hanging in the air and the said agencies without caring about it have registered more than 20000 students as a whole to be sent out this year and the government is looking at this fraud as a mute spectator.
Now if thousands of such students would face the same fate (God Forbid), that after studying outside for months and failing to avail the scholarship ultimately due to its limited availability, they and their parents who must have pinned great expectations from their children by then will be left with no option but to cry their hearts and souls out aloud, sell out their houses, or belongings or even organs to not let the careers of their wards get wasted away. The families which wouldnâ€™t be able to do so due one reason or the other would have every chance that their wards could even end up their lives with a suicide or develop hatred against the system that has as ever cheated them again and take up resistance against the very state that has been so unconcerned for them. This would further widen the gulf and wedge between the state machinery and the masses.
Moreover, the people need to look at it from another angle too. They must try to understand that itâ€™s a well thought plan of a brain drain, that is being operated in Kashmir. As the government has toiled by way of this scheme and similar others (Udaan, Himayat,etc) to send as many youth as possible out of the state, especially those belonging to the middle and lower strata of our society just to dilute the sentiment for freedom in Kashmir, for, they are the ones in whom the freedom sentiment and passion for the same is most alive. By this they are trying to involve this most important and difference making section of youth in different activities so that their attentions and priorities get changed and they get busy in things other than â€˜Azadiâ€™. This presumption is further substantiated by the fact that the training and employment programmes under Udaan and like schemes are nothing but eyewash. In reality, through these schemes the government of India provides Kashmiri work force at extremely cheap rates to the corporate sectors outside the state and on the other hand they also make sure that they are especially trained in such skills which as such have no field, takers or practical applicability in Kashmir, so that even if they donâ€™t want but they still have to remain outside the state to earn their living as they wouldnâ€™t find relevant jobs here in Kashmir. This way definite and well designed attempt is being made to dilute the freedom sentiment in Kashmir.
Leaving everything aside, I think it is high time for the current regime of J&K to atleast give people a chance to feel that itâ€™s not an alien and unconcerned despotism as ever by breaking and doing away with its inertia of taking it easy and not reacting as usual. They should do so by taking due measures to put an end to this malicious nexus going on and stop this fraudulent activity of NGOâ€™s and consultancies at once. They should rather set up a nodal agency to make the over all process speedier and transparent. The job of the said nodal agency should mainly be to facilitate the process of studentsâ€™ admissions to well reputed institutes and to avail the scholarship benefits for them. Moreover, they must ask the GOI to set up more medical and engineering colleges and regional universities (it could be on PPP basis too) within J&K so that the majority of our students donâ€™t have to leave the state for general and basic courses and it would also help create better educational infrastructure within the state and also bring in more jobs, boost the economy further as well as accelerate our prosperity further, in case they really intend to do good to the people of J&K especially Kashmir and the browbeaten state atlarge.