Every year around 4000 to 5000 students in J&K leave their homes to pursue higher education courses in outside J&K colleges. The students are allotted the colleges under the much hyped Prime Ministers Special Scholarship Scheme (PMSSS) launched in 2010 for J&K students wherein the courses are fully financed by the AICTE under the scheme. Besides the course fee, the students get their maintenance charges from the AICTE during the course.
Apparently it seems the centrally sponsored scheme was launched to benefit the J&K students to pursue higher education courses on 100 percent scholarship. The initiative proved helpful for those students who are not financially sound to afford to bear the expenses for the course. The students are allotted the colleges in different states outside J&K as per their merit. Only those students are eligible for admission under the scheme whose family income is less than Rs 08 lakhs per year.
Ideally, nobody will question the benefits the students get under this scheme, but a question always strikes; was this scheme launched to benefit the outside colleges or really the students of Jammu and Kashmir. Over the years it has been seen that the benefits of these schemes were extended to those colleges outside which were at the verge of closure to drastic decline in the student enrollment.
The students are offered admission in all those courses in outside colleges which are almost available in 70 percent of the colleges and technical institutes in J&K. But then why this condition has been set for the students to leave their homes to avail the benefits of the scheme. Why cannot these students avail the benefits of the same scheme without remaining away from their homes for years together? I never got any satisfactory reply to this question from any academician or a bureaucrat.
During the past years, these students have been tagged as ‘scholarship students’ and become the worst victim during any law and order situation in any of the states they are studying. Just to recall, hundreds of students were intimidated and forced to leave their hostels post attack on CRPF convoy in Pulwama two years ago.
Post Pulwama attack, Kashmiri students pursuing academic and professional courses in different colleges in outside states returned to Valley after facing intimidation and physical assault by mobs in different states including Uttarakhand and Haryana post Pulwama. Not only this, the students keep on complaining of harassment in colleges and outside the premises as well, leaving their parents frightened every time. The students have also returned from their colleges after they were attacked and beaten by goons in the colleges.
So, coming to the point now, the J&K government has announced new 102 colleges some two years ago out of which 52 degree colleges were made operational as well.
Apart from the already existing 96 government degree colleges in J&K, the government in 2018 announced the establishment of 102 new degree colleges in two phases. Out of this, 52 colleges announced in the first phase were made operational in rented accommodations or make-shift arrangements from last year.
But the new colleges in most of the areas failed to attract the students to pursue their higher educational courses. Amid this, the government should take up the matter with the government of India particularly with AICTE and get the benefits of PMSSS for these colleges. The move will benefit the students as well as the government. If the scheme is extended to J&K colleges it will bring a huge revenue to the institutions on account of college fee of students granted by AICTE.
Under the scheme, the AICTE releases grants up to Rs 30,000 per year per student for general undergraduate courses besides maintenance charges worth Rs one lakh per student per year. For professional courses like engineering and nursing, the college gets grants up to Rs 1.25 lakh per student every year with maintenance grant of Rs one lakh to every student per year.
For a medical degree or equivalent course, the college gets grants up to Rs three lakh per year for each student and maintenance grants of Rs one lakh per year to every student. So, if these grants are provided to J&K colleges it will bring massive reforms in the higher education sector. Besides, the students will also get a sigh of relief by getting admission in J&K colleges and will remain with their families.
In times of crises, the families of these students always remain at the edge. The parents always remain apprehensive about the safety of their kids and amid this they remain in a dilemma whether to allow their kids to continue their course under the scheme outside J&K or call them back to ensure their safety.
Just two years ago, around two dozen Kashmiri students were suspended and two Kashmiri professors were sacked from the institutions outside J&K. The incidents created insecurity among parents who were hesitant to send their children back to join the colleges in outside states.
Even this year also, the students made hue and cry and wanted to return to the Valley in view of the ongoing pandemic situation.
Keeping in view the infrastructure deficit in colleges and concerns related with the safety of the students, the J&K government should take up the matter with the government of India and convince the authorities to extend the PMSSS to colleges in J&K. I hope that the J&K administration will understand the necessity of the issue and work for the betterment of the students.