Beneficiaries of the Prime Ministers Special Scholarship Scheme (PMSSS) are complaining that they are not receiving their monthly maintenance, as colleges are shut down since April because of the pandemic led lockdown.
PMSSS is a scholarship which is awarded to students of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh Union Territories when they take admission in a college or university outside J&K. It is a fully funded scholarship and covers tuition fee and other charges.
Apart from tuition fee, beneficiaries of the scholarship also receive Rs 1 lakh as annual maintenance. Of this amount, Rs 20,000 is received by the students at the beginning of the session and the rest of amount in the form of eight monthly instalments of Rs 10,000. This amount is sent for expenses like books, living, among others. The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) administers the scholarship.
This year, since colleges are not opening, the monthly sum of Rs 10,000 has not been disbursed since August. Beneficiaries of the scholarship say that this amount is important for them as payment for online classes has been difficult specially during the pandemic.
A group of PMSSS beneficiaries wrote a letter to the AICTE last week which was then shared with the press. They demanded full maintenance charges for previous and upcoming semester.
Officials in the AICTE said that they are acting upon instructions from the Ministry of Education (MoE). They have been instructed to withhold maintenance amount until colleges reopen.
An AICTE official told The Print that they were instructed by the Ministry of Education to hold the maintenance funds for students because colleges were closed. But lately they have been getting a number of requests from students demanding the funds.
Students say that inaccessibility to 4G internet services in the region has made it difficult for them to attend online classes. They have to spend extra money from their pockets.
Shahid Beg, a beneficiary of the scholarship, told ThePrint that online education, downloading study materials, research and project preparation etc is highly hard with 2G internet connection. The students have to pay additional charges to buy extra data packs for the extended online classes and for the installation of broadband services at their homes.
PMSSS is awarded for students both in technical and non-technical courses.