New Delhi: The AAP government is planning to give scholarships to 10,000 students with what it says is Rs.21 crore lying unutilized for years by the previous Sheila Dikshit government.
Improving the standard of education in the national capital has been declared as one of the top priorities of the over one-month old Aam Aadmi Party government, led by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
"A lot of money was spent in the education sector by the previous Congress government, but in an unplanned manner. I am going to make an announcement soon that we will give scholarships to 10,000 students in the higher education sector," Delhi Education Minister Manish Sisodia told IANS in an interview.
The measure would be a boon for poor students.
Sisodia said the earlier government had given scholarships to 100-150 students from poor backgrounds.
During a meeting last month with the department of higher education Sisodia had expressed displeasure at the state of affairs. He had pointed out that while there is provision for scholarships to underprivileged students which reduces the cost by 50 percent, last year only seven students benefited from it.
"You have money on you but you are not giving it to them," the minister told IANS, without naming the Congress government which ruled Delhi for 15 consecutive years.
"In the name of scholarships an amount of Rs.21 crore was lying with the government. There are students who need money," Sisodia added.
The minister said the previous regime had no plan in place to disburse the amount earmarked for scholarships. "There was no plan for disbursing the money. I asked the officials to draw up a plan," he said.
Sources in the government said they are going to draw up a proper plan and disburse the money over five years. "If we have money for the students, then why not give it to them. Why keep the money in the bank account," Sisodia said.
Sisodia, the de fact No.2 in the ruling AAP, also holds the charge of urban development but has set education as his top priority.
The AAP has promised to open 500 schools in the capital and the education minister, in a warning, has already made clear to private schools that education is not a sector for makikng profits.
The government has also launched a helpline where parents can register complaints pertaining to the nursery admission procedures. The minister also conducted a surprise inspection on a Delhi-government run municipal school and was shocked at the state of affairs and the poor quality of mid-day meal served to the children.
(Gaurav Sharma can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)