How the government of India enhanced the employability of economically weaker sections of notified minority communities in the country under 'Padho Pardesh' scheme.
With a refurbishment to the 2006 announced Prime Minister's 15-point program for the welfare of Minorities, the present Minority Affairs Minister Najma Heptulla declared Government's program titled 'Padho Pardsh,' which would go on to facilitate a large community of Indian students to go abroad. The scheme is giving some hopes for the students who are also dreaming about going abroad to pursue their education. During the Question Hour in the Parliament, she said under the 'Padho Pardesh' scheme, the ministry would provide interest subsidy on educational loans for overseas studies for students belonging to the notified minority communities like Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jain and Parsis. In her speech, she also said that the government's intention is that not only the students belonging to rich families but also students from poor background should be able to go abroad for higher studies.
In effective interest payable by the students availing of the education loans of the Indian Bank's Association (IBA) for the period of moratorium as prescribed under the Education Loan Scheme of the IBA, shall be borne by the government of India. The period of moratorium includes course period, plus one year or six month after getting the job, whichever is earlier. After the moratorium period, students have to pay the interest on the outstanding loan amount in accordance with the existing Education Loan Scheme as it may be amended from time to time. To enjoy the complete benefit of this scheme, students need to be highly focused on their studies as the subsidy would not be available if they discontinue the course in mid-stream due to any reason or if they are expelled from the institution on disciplinary or academic grounds.
As per the government record, the objective of the 'Padho Pardesh' is to award interest subsidy to meritorious students belonging to economically weaker sections of the notified minority communities to provide them better opportunities for higher education abroad and enhance their employability. The scheme is applicable for higher studies abroad. The interest subsidy shall be linked with the existing Education Loan Scheme of IBA and it is restricted to students enrolled for courses at Masters, MPhil and PhD levels. However, this will avail to the eligible students only once, either for Masters or for PhD.
From 2009 onwards, the government of India has a scheme to provide full interest subsidy during the period of moratorium on loans taken by students belonging to economically weaker sections for pursuing technical and professional courses. While the income ceiling for getting subsidy to study inside India is 4.5 lakhs per annum, the government has extended it to six lakhs per annum for 'Padho Pardesh.' The income should be from all sources of employed candidates or their parents/guardians in case of unemployed candidates. Students who have secured admission in any of the approved course and have availed loan from scheduled bank under the Education Loan Scheme of the IBA can apply for the subsidy with necessary documents.
Monitoring and Transparency
When the government announced their first subsidy scheme for higher education in India, the introductory sentence was remarkable. It said, "One of the major concerns of the Government is to ensure that nobody is denied professional education because he or she is poor." Even though, the government's intensions to empower the weaker sections look justifying in the papers, many schemes have failed due to ineffective monitoring and lack of transparency in the process. This might be the one reason behind the direct involvement of Ministry of Minority Affairs to monitor the performance of the scheme. For this purpose, a web enabled monitoring system shall be put in place by the designated bank and these banks will be required to furnish quarterly financial and physical progress reports to the ministry. The nodal banks will also maintain the year wise details of the students receiving scholarship, indicating institute, location of the institute, class, address and every such details. Canara Bank is the implementing agency for the scheme.
According to the 2001 census, 19.5 percentages of the total population in India belongs to minority communities, which mean the reach of government's "Padho Pardesh" scheme is wide. From the words of Minority Affairs Minister, it is evident that the agenda of new government is not discrimination against any community. If the government could implement 'Padho Pardesh' in the top most transparency without trapping it in the red tapes, the students in the country can look forward to a bright future. Moreover, the new policy with title 'sabka saath, sabka vikash' (development from all),' can be a new ray of hope for the nation.