Student leaders said they have been forced to take to the streets because the state government has been unable to give a specific time-frame in which it will disburse its share of scholarship money — 25% of pre-matric minority scholarships for the 2013-14 period and 10% of post-matric tribal scholarships for the 2014-15 period, which together amount to almost Rs 1,300 lakhs.
The former scholarship is disbursed by the Minority Affairs Ministry, the latter by the Tribal Affairs Ministry.
The state government has, meanwhile, said it was intimated only recently by the Tribal Affairs Ministry that the state has to chip in 10% of the post-matric tribal scholarship (one of two scholarship schemes addressed by the mass rally) as the state’s share even as the it was earlier funded 100% by the Centre. The government admitted it did not immediately have the necessary funds, but that it will disburse its share within the month of March itself.
Leaders of the thousands of lively, mostly undergraduate students who took part in the rally said they were merely demanding what was rightfully theirs, but that they were also peeved at Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla, who said at a students’ conference on Saturday that the full scholarship cannot be had through mass rallies and that students are not attending institutes of learning for scholarships.
Lal Thanhawla had also told delegates at the first annual meet of student unions from different Aizawl colleges that students ought to study for their future livelihoods and that he was impressed by many poor students who earn their way through college. He also took a swipe at student leaders saying “there are some who are leaders for future political gain.”
The students who rallied in Aizawl on Monday shouted slogans aimed at the CM and his remarks, and also called for the CM’s resignation saying “he looks down upon students” and “addresses us in an uncivil manner.”
The rally was called last Friday by the Mizo Students’ Union, one of two main student unions in Mizoram, with the cooperation of various colleges’ internal student unions.
MSU president P C Lalrinhlua said students “can no longer trust the government” because it’s various statements issued over the weekend made conflicting statements about when the state would disburse its share of the scholarships.
The rally saw several thousand college students converging at Vanapa Hall, located in the heart of Aizawl, from both north and south as they shouted slogans and carried placards.
The protest march was peaceful, but student leaders have threatened more strikes or even a bandh if their demands are not met in the following weeks.
Social media has been rife with arguments for and against the students’ rally as well, with some supporting it and criticising the government for the financial constraints it is currently in, while others allege most students are likely not eligible for the scholarships, which is given based on parents’ incomes.
The government has also said it has to “disburse the scholarships even to students who officials personally know are unlikely to be eligible for it because they all have income certificates issued by Deputy Commissioners’ offices.”