History is a testament to the poor progress of ST, SC, and OBC in educational developments. Often, students from such backgrounds are subject to marginalization and exploitation – the caste and class ascendancy in the socio-economic space by the upper caste is quite prominent in the country. Education is seen, if not solely, as the most profound factor in promoting social justice and removing social discrimination. Upliftment of social factors is also a boost to the economy as more people will be able to contribute to the state. However, on the road towards educational reform, often, due to poor facilities and rigid possibilities of social mobility, students from such backgrounds struggle in having easy access to education.
Thus, in the step towards educational upliftment, The Government of India started a scheme to provide hostel facilities to OBC students in the form of grants given to educational institutions for construction and expansion of hostels for their benefit. Such a scheme was started from the 9 Five-Year Plan (1997 – 2002) and it has always been a part of successive Five-Year Plans. It is sponsored by the Central government and the funds will be shared among the Central and the State based on the government guidelines. Often, such schemes essentially require the workers at ground level to ensure that the daily operations run smoothly and that no students face any kind of trouble.
Under this scheme, there are two kinds of hostels – one which is fully owned by the government and, thus, provides facilities free of cost. The other is run by private institutions and NGOs, where the state government only provides salaries to the hostel staff and students have to take care of their mess facilities (thus, called Grant-in-Aid Hostels). While such a scheme can have broad aspects to consider, only post-matric students and a few pre-matric students (only if seats are vacant) will be allowed to occupy the hostel. This raises a very pertinent question on the allowability of pre-matric students. Often, students from such backgrounds forfeit their primary education due to socio-economic reasons and thus the eligibility of only post-matric students in the context of educational upliftment of students from such backgrounds in the form of social mobility becomes redundant.
While any scheme for educational upliftment of students from such backgrounds is always a welcome move, the government should also focus on the social mobility of students in their primary education. However, it must be brought to the fore that over the decade, the intake capacity of government hostels and actual admission given to students from such backgrounds have increased over the years. As a by-product of good hostels, the educational performance and overall holistic growth of such students have improved.
However, such schemes are always subject to the misutilization of government grants and facilities. Thus, it becomes essential to have a process of social audit on such facilities. Regular inspection and check should be conducted by social welfare officers to ensure that any pseudo galley proof of so-called good hostels can be exposed; beliefs and cultures of students must be respected to ensure that they receive adequate space in such aspects and no students should be influenced to join any particular school of management’s interest.
Construction and expansion of Hostels for OBC students must be kept proactive so that its reach can expand to various towns and villages exposed to the atrocities of social stigma towards education. As a part of our society, individuals and various NGOs should ensure that the scheme develops, creates awareness, and moves in the right direction.