Bahujan Lives Matter: Strike against low stipend, SC fund 'scam'; ASA makes 16 demands

Mumbai students’ indefinite strike demanding justice for marginalised students continues. A new hostel promised in 2007 is still under construction: ASA

The government scholarships have been delayed by a year. (Image: X/@BahujanLives)The government scholarships have been delayed by a year. (Image: X/@BahujanLives)

Anu Parthiban | February 20, 2024 | 11:21 AM IST

NEW DELHI: The Ambedkar Students Association have been protesting against the insufficient stipends and inadequate facilities in hostels for marginalized students in Maharashtra for the past 8 days now. The students initiated an indefinite strike from February 12 alleging SC fund scam by .

“The strike, centered at the Sant Eknath Government Boys’ Hostel in Chembur, Mumbai, is gaining momentum as students stand united in their pursuit of justice.” The students accused the officials of financial misappropriation and corruption of SC scholarship funds.

The hostel, operated and maintained by the Department of Social Welfare and Justice, caters to meritorious students from marginalized castes. A new hostel with a capacity of 1,000 students was promised in 2007, however, the construction work began in 2023 after a protest, the association said. The construction work is still underway.

Scholarships delayed by a year

They also pointed out that a meagre stipend of Rs 800 per month is insufficient, especially to survive in a metropolitan city of Mumbai.

Kalpesh Yamnere, a Mumbai University student: said: "We have not received our stipend for a year, and we are not provided with stationary. There are economically disadvantaged marginalized students who were not awarded scholarships, leading to the unfortunate consequence of their admission being dropped due to their inability to pay on time. Government scholarship payments are sometimes delayed by as much as a year."

Demanding a hike in stipend, Rohini Bhadarge, a student of JJ School of Arts, said: “We receive a monthly stipend of Rs 800 according to the 2011 Government Resolution (GR). It is supposed to be updated every five years, but it has not been updated so far. It costs me Rs 60 per day to travel to college, totalling around Rs 2,000 per month.”

Also read Scholarship delays to discrimination: UGC explains functions to university ombudspersons

'SC fund scam'

"There is misappropriation of SC funds, which are intended for them. In 2023, the government centralized the kitchen, awarding all tenders to four major private companies instead of allocating them to Scheduled Caste enterprises. This has resulted in economic harm to Scheduled Caste small enterprises," Rohit Kamble, a professor, told Bahujan Lives Matter (BLM).

He further informed that a university in Dapoli does not have a hostel and requested the state government to build a hostel with capacity of 100 boys and 100 girls to prevent dropouts.

Kamble highlighted that every year several candidates belonging to OBC category apply, but the hostel maintained by the social welfare department has only a 5% quota for other backward castes. As a result, a large number of students from rural areas return back to their villages as they cannot afford to live in Mumbai.

Also read Education Budget 2024: SC, OBC minority scholarship funds cut; tribal fellowships get increased allocations

16 demands of Ambedkar Students Association

The student group put forward a total of 16 demands and said that the strike will continue till all their demands are addressed.

  • Improving hostel facilities for government backward class hostels, in accordance with the government decision of 2011.
  • A thorough inquiry into alleged misappropriation of funds and corruption at the Sant Eknath Hostel, involving Joynest Premises Private Ltd. A demand for the establishment of a new hostel in Chembur is also made.
  • Legal action against Joynest Premises Private Ltd. and Crystal Integrated Services Private Ltd. under the Prevention of Caste-Tribe Atrocities Act for exploiting Scheduled Caste-Tribe students.
  • Legal action against ICELES Motilal Jhunjhunwala College under the Prevention of Caste-Tribe Atrocities Act for exploiting students in the name of a development fund.
  • Cancelation of centralized food supply contracts. Demand awarding contracts to small entrepreneurs from scheduled castes, following the government's decision dated November 6, 2023.
  • Timely provision of subsistence allowance and stationery to hostel students.
  • Action against colleges forcibly collecting fees from students of marginalized castes.
  • Opening hostels at Worli with a capacity of 1,000 boys and 500 girls.

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