Delays in stipends made worse during lockdown
Although the LSR College student who was found dead last week was in line for the Centre’s INSPIRE scholarship worth ₹80,000 per year, she was yet to see a single paisa of that money despite being almost halfway through her second year.
The Department of Science and Technology (DST) said the scholarship money is not paid in the first year to prevent drop-outs from benefiting.
Delays built into the system mean that the LSR student may not have received any money for another six months.
Surveys suggest that scholarship and research stipend delays have also been further exacerbated by the lockdown.
There is no backlog from the DST’s end in disbursing the INSPIRE scholarship, according to DST Secretary Ashutosh Sharma. He said that the Ministry annually funds 10-12,000 science students via the Innovation in Science Pursuit for Inspired Research (INSPIRE) scheme, whereby the top 2% of graduates from State school boards are given a scholarship to pursue degrees in basic sciences.
Potential awardees get money from the second year onwards depending on maintaining a certain threshold of marks in the first year. “The money is disbursed after the first year as it often happens that students change streams in the first year," he told The Hindu.
The DST had made the LSR student a ‘provisional’ offer for the 2019 batch, and given time until December to upload relevant documents.
According to the FAQ on the Inspire website, “it usually takes 3-4 months to release the scholarship after the approval of relevant documents or sanction installment notification on webportal. If you have NOT received the scholarship even after five months of approval of relevant documents, please write to [the Ministry],” indicating that even if the LSR student had sent in her application by December, she may not have received any money till she finished her second year.
In a note found after she died, she had allegedly written, “Please ensure that INSPIRE scholarship is available for at least a year.”
“In general, there are no delays in INSPIRE disbursal as it directly goes into student accounts but there have been instances when colleges delay submitting documents such as utilisation certificate," said Mr. Sharma.
“The student has not approached the college regarding this. There is nothing in our records showing any application from her,” said LSR principal Suman Sharma. She said the student had maintained a grade point average of about 8 out of 10, well above the 60% requirement for continuation of the scholarship.
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