Center withdraws scholarship for marginalized students for culture and history studies abroad

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Students from marginalized backgrounds will no longer be eligible for national scholarships to take courses related to Indian culture, heritage, history or society at foreign universities, the government announced recently.

Since 1954, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has provided funds to students belonging to Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST) and landless farmworker families under the National Scholarship Program Study Abroad (NOS). According to reports, the program only covered courses in the fields of science, technology and engineering until 2012, when the humanities and social sciences were included. However, a good portion of these have now been excluded. Also, the communication came quite close to the deadline for scholarship applications, which is March 31.

“There is a rich directory of resources and excellent universities and courses in the country on these topics. We…felt that the scholarship to study abroad was not necessary to study Indian history, culture or heritage…resources could be better spent on gaining expertise in other areas at overseas universities said R. Subrahmanyam, Secretary, Social Justice and Empowerment. Ministry, explaining the reason for the exclusion.

The government’s decision is the subject of criticism – not only because the announcement of the exclusion came so close to the application deadline, but also because it was taken without any public consultation on how it could impact students whose educational prospects are at stake. Moreover, since the program only applies to marginalized students, the revision will also only affect their prospects – restricting their career choices and putting them at a disadvantage compared to non-marginalized students who can afford the same degrees.


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Moreover, as Satish Deshpande, a professor at the University of Delhi, told the Deccan Herald: “The level of education in India needs an overhaul; in general, India’s spending in the social sector, and education in particular, needs to be reviewed. With India’s social studies infrastructure thus arousing censorship, it seems even more unjust to prevent marginalized students from pursuing their studies abroad.

If that was not all, academic freedom is also on the decline in India, which restricts the scope of related topics and discussions. Last March, a global report drew attention to the weakening of academic freedom in India, noting an increase in “intimidation of professors, students and institutions over political and religious issues” in 2020. November of the previous year, India dropped from grade “B” to “D” on an international measure of academic freedom – comparable to the score of countries like Saudi Arabia and Libya.

Increasingly, “sensitive” research topics — particularly in the social sciences and humanities — are being restricted under the guise of national security. This further closes the options for all students wishing to pursue an education in the social sciences and, of course, the revisions to the NOS curriculum make the situation worse for students from oppressed castes.

Last February, the central government mandated public universities to seek government permission to virtually host international seminars on India’s “internal” issues – a decision later withdrawn following heavy criticism. In September last year, Central Kerala University issued a ‘gag order’ preventing staff and faculty members from making ‘anti-national’ statements – threatening anyone who violates the order with disciplinary action . In 2018, the same university suspended another associate professor for writing a Facebook post supporting a Dalit student, who was arrested for breaking the glass of a fire alarm cabinet at the university hostel.


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“The administration has created an atmosphere of fear on campus with such decisions, although most of us are against restricting academic freedom,” a university faculty member told The Telegraph. covered with anonymity.

However, when it comes to overseas universities, Indian authorities cannot exercise similar control. According to Deepak Malghan, a professor at IIM, Bangalore, this could be a possible reason why the center took this step. “[T]he government is clearly paranoid here… It seems to have been pissed off by scholars based in Western universities who are questioning the rising tide of majority authoritarianism in India,” he said.

Additionally, for students from marginalized communities, education abroad may have certain advantages. “Achieving a Ph.D. degree from a foreign institution offers better chances of securing faculty positions in elite Indian institutions. Importantly, a foreign degree provides a potential escape from the insinuation of the “ lack of merit “that academics from marginalized communities endure daily – even when an academic has not taken advantage of the benefits of booking,” states The Wire.

Perhaps, as Malghan notes, “the government is also… concerned that Dalit students are adding more weight to growing calls in American universities to recognize caste as an independent protected category.”

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