The Government is striving for inclusive development of the citizens, which includes both majority and minority. To realize the aim, the Union Government has formulated a number of people oriented policies and programmes. Some of these policies focus on minorities and are exclusively for them. The Prime Minister’s New 15 Point Programme for the Welfare of Minorities is one such programme which is aimed at increasing educational opportunities, allowing fair and just share in economic pursuits, employment through different schemes, and also provide support for generating self employment.
Sikkim, has also been implementing the schemes introduced by the Ministry of Minorities Affairs (MOMA) to realize the goals of Prime Minister’s New 15 Point Programme for the Welfare of Minorities. The Department of Social Justice & Empowerment is the nodal body for implementation of the schemes in Sikkim. North District has been identified as the District with substantial minority population. The monitoring is done by a high level committee headed by Chief Secretary. In the education sector Pre-Matric, Post –Matric and Merit-cum-Means based Scholarships are being provided to Minority community students, which includes Buddhists and Christians in Sikkim.
As far as Pre-Matric Scholarship scheme is concerned, according to official records, Sikkim has been allocated 11,201 seats, out of which 3201 are for the Buddhist and 800 for the Christian students, with 30% earmarked for girl students. The funding is done at 75.25 ratios between centre and State Govt.
Pre-Matric scholarships are provided to the economically weaker sections of Buddhists and Christian community students from class 1 to 10. The Students have been availing of the opportunity in Government as well as the private institutions selected and notified by the State government. Those with at least 50% of marks or corresponding grade in the final exams and income of parents not exceeding Rs. One Lakh are awarded scholarship. Those eligible are provided scholarship, subject to submission of a copy of Sikkim Subject Certificate or Certificate of Identification and other relevant documents. It is available to not more than 2 beneficiaries per family. The students, both day scholars and boarders, from class 1-10, have been availing @ Rs 100 as Maintenance Allowance in the Government schools. Whereas, in the private schools, the rate for day scholars from 1-5 is Rs 1000 in the form of maintenance allowance, from class 6-10, are being provided Rs 5000 per annum i.eRs 1000 as Maintenance and Rs 4000 as Fee Reimbursement. The Private School Boarders from class 1-5 have been given Rs 1000 as Maintenance Allowance, class 6-10 are availing the Maintenance Allowance @ Rs. 6000 and Fee reimbursement @ Rs. 4000 only. There is no reimbursement for government scholarship holders as they are not charged any fee, at all.
The other scheme is that of Post-Matric Scholarship (PMS), a cent percent Centrally Sponsored scheme aimed at providing better educational facilities to meritorious students from economically weaker sections of minority Buddhist and Christian communities in the State. The students can avail of the opportunity in the Government, private colleges and Universities respectively and also in residential Government as well as private institutions notified by the Government. The income limit for eligibility for the scholarship under PM’s New 15 point programme is Rs 2 lakhs. The State has been allocated 700 seats altogether out of which 560 are for the Buddhist and 140 for Christians, including 30% for girls. The students have also been availing On Line Form filling facilities. Under this scheme, meritorious students with at least 50% marks are given scholarship. Each scholarship holder is provided admission & tuition fee not exceeding more the Rs 7000 for classes 11 to 12 and also for those pursuing technical & professional studies of same level. This is applicable to both boarders and day scholars, with maintenance allowance @ Rs 380 per month for Boarders, 10 months in any academic year and Rs 230 for day scholars. For Technical & Vocational courses also actual amount is given to boarders & day scholars. The Under Graduate and Post Graduate, boarder and day scholars have been availing of actual amount spent subject to the ceiling of Rs 3000 and Maintenance Allowance @ Rs 570 for boarders and 300 for the Day Scholars. The M. Phil and Ph. D research scholars, not availing any other fellowship are given Rs 1200 per boarder and Rs 550 per month per Day Scholar.
The other important Scholarship scheme under Prime Minister’s New 15 Point Programme for the Welfare of Minorities implemented in Sikkim is the Merit-cum-Means based Scholarship for students belonging to minority communities, i.e Buddhists and Christians. The Government of India has been implementing the scheme through the state government for the betterment of poor and meritorious students. A great number of students have been pursuing professional and vocational courses, generating employable workforce.
Altogether 60 seats have been allocated by the Union Government to Sikkim, for those Sikkim Subject certificate holders, having not more than rupees two lakh fifty thousand only income per annum, for studies in government and private institutions. Out of these, the Buddhists have been given 48 and Christians 12 seats. They are given up to Rs. 20,000 per year subject to actual expense and Maintenance Allowance @ Rs 10 thousand to boarders and Rs 5 thousand to the Day Scholars provided they have studied in institution enlisted by the Government. The scholars are expected to get admission in the institution themselves in the first instance. Under this scheme, it has been learnt that sometimes the State runs short of seats. In such circumstances, the Central Government is requested to divert seats from other states where Buddhists’ concentration is lesser.
The scheme appears to have been benefitting a vast section of the State’s population.