MU's reserved category student is now a PhD, but still awaits M Ed scholarship

It has been five years since the Social Welfare Department (SWD) disbursed a scholarship amount of Rs 11,321 to Mumbai University (MU) to be handed over to a reserved category student — Viraj Pandagale — for his one-year (2013-14) Masters course. The money is yet to reach him. He has completed his PhD and also works in a temporary position in the varsity, but his fight for the scholarship continues.

According to the rules mentioned in the Constitution, reserved category students are entitled to grants from the SWD to pursue their higher studies. Like many others, Viraj too was supposed to get scholarship for his Masters in Education (M.Ed.) course, which he completed in 2013-14. As per the process, the SWD disbursed the scholarship to the university in 2015 with the instructions that it had to be handed over to the student concerned. However, at that time, Viraj did not have much clarity on the status of the money.

Speaking to mid-day, he said, "I got to know about the disbursement of the money only when I approached the SWD in 2016. Till then I had not got any satisfactory answers from the varsity administration. After that I approached the department concerned a number of times but without any resolution. The staff member looking into my case has been either unavailable or whenever he is available, he has no clear answers on its status."

The matter came to light after the student wing of MNS, Maharashtra Navnirman Vidyarthi Sena got to know about it from the university circle and complained to the SWD. "The Rohit Vemula case is not a very old one, and especially something not to be forgotten because a student belonging to the reserved category committed suicide over delay in disbursement of stipend. In such times, the university delaying disbursement of scholarship to a student raises questions," said Santosh Gangurde, state vice-president of MNVS. He added that they would write to the Governor of Maharashtra demanding audit of disbursement of scholarships over the past 10 years. "It is time that we review the situation across the state. There might be many other students facing the same problem," Gangurde added.

Following the complaint, the SWD swung into action and demanded a report on this from the university. Assistant commissioner of social welfare, Mumbai suburbs, Samadhan Ingle, said, "We have held a hearing with the varsity and have demanded clarity on the matter. The money for that batch was disbursed in 2015 as per the practice. In fact, all institutions were asked to complete the process within a month of disbursement of funds. It is the responsibility of the institution heads to ensure that the due process is followed so that students don't face difficulty. We will recommend filing a criminal case against the concerned staff."

Maharashtra State Commission for SC & ST held a hearing on Thursday with the MU higher authorities to resolve the matter. When contacted, varsity Registrar, Ajay Deshmukh, assured that strict action would be taken against the staff, who delayed payment. "The issue will be resolved soon. However, strict action will be taken against those guilty in the matter following the regulations prescribed under the law," he added. According to Deshmukh, in the past after the student approached the higher authorities, the concerned staff was sent directives to resolve the issue immediately and yet there was a delay.