The Karnataka government recently announced that scholarships for children of construction workers would be slashed. While the labour department has cited insufficient funds, students and experts voiced their discontent over the move. Stakeholders worry that the move might result in low enrollment from the marginalised community, depriving them of quality education, stated a report in The New Indian Express.
Data shows the labour department received over 13 lakh applications for the year 2022-23, and has identified seven lakh students as beneficiaries. The department has decided to cut the scholarship amount by 80-85 per cent from the school level to higher educational institutions. Students pursuing degrees in engineering or medical field, and various master’s courses will be hit hardest.
An MBBS student received Rs 60,000 annually, which would now be cut to only Rs 11,000, and postgraduation students’ amount is down from Rs 35,000 to Rs 10,000. When The New Indian Express spoke to students from first-year and final-year courses, they said the move came as a major shock. They contended that with the cost of education on the rise year after year, the scholarships guaranteed them an opportunity which is now being snatched.
Deeksha Guddappa from Shivamogga, a first-year computer Science Engineering student at Government Sri Krishna Rajendra Silver Jubilee Technological Institue (SKSJTI) Bengaluru, said, “My father has been a labourer for over 25 years. At least under the scholarship I got to complete my secondary education and opt for higher education. If the government implements the new rules, it will be very difficult for us to continue studying.”
She explained that hostel fees is over Rs 25,000 and the scholarship amount she received last year was only Rs 30,000. “It didn’t even cover my fees,” Deeksha said.
Another student, Chaithra UK, a resident of Mandya in her final year of electronics and communications engineering in Mysuru, said, “Our parents anyway have to take loans from banks or people to pay fees as the scholarship amount is always delayed. With no education assistance for my sister and me, it will be very difficult.” She questioned the authorities on information related to labour cess being collected.
Experts said the ongoing schemes should not be stopped. “Even a small amount goes a long way. Most of these children are first-generation learners, if the government doesn’t support them, who will?” said Vasudev Sharma, executive director, Child Rights Trust (CRT).
All India Democratic Students’ Organisation (AIDSO) on Friday submitted a letter to K Johnson, deputy secretary of the Construction Labourers’ Welfare Board, demanding the restoration of the earlier scholarship. He said it was because of a lack of funds and that he would raise the issue with officials.