This eScholarship program of the UP Government has nipped leakages and fund misappropriations so well that the number of deserving beneficiaries has shot up almost two-fold
Government programs have consumed billions of rupees from the public purse toward fulfilling the Right to Education (RTE) objectives. However, their success rates leave much to be desired, with the archaic systems being exploited by unintended beneficiaries. The state of Uttar Pradesh (UP) is no exception. Its literacy rate at 69.72 percent as of 2016 was behind the national average of 74.4 percent, partly because the schemes and fee reimbursement programs don’t reach the needy in time.
Precisely to overcome this loophole, the Government of Uttar Pradesh rolled out a reformist program, Saksham, as one of the first projects in the country to initiate electronic transfer of scholarships directly to beneficiaries’ bank accounts, right from the primary stage till the student attains a professional degree like a BTech, an MBBS or an MBA.
A legacy of loopholes
Prior to Saksham, disbursal of scholarships was chaotic. As the process was manual, sometimes it took more than a year to receive the eligible scholarship amount. The number of fraudulent claims was high as there was no verification mechanism for students and their bank accounts at the state level. The system also lacked procedures for deduplication of claimants, which was a major source of fraudulent claims.
Prior to Saksham, all three concerned departments namely, the Department of Social Welfare, Department of Minorities, and Department of OBC ran the schemes separately for the respective categories at the district level. The state directorates held fort for budget allotment based on district-wise demands, arrived manually after a laborious coordination exercise with the heads of educational institutions across the state.
The manual system, in practice, was like an open invitation to misappropriate funds, puncturing the very purpose of the programs, and even causing huge losses to the exchequer.
What Saksham does
Saksham integrates multiple departments, ensures speedy delivery of funds, and most importantly brings in the “certainty” factor. The stringent checks and rigorous scrutiny built into the system prevents fraud and identifies genuine candidates, thus making the scholarship and fee reimbursement objectives achievable.
Challenges in integrating the departments, which pursued their own sets of objectives, were overcome through multiple decentralized training and district-level support programs. Identification of genuine students studying in a recognized institution was achieved by creating an institutional database duly digitally signed by the head of an institution, the district-level welfare officer, and the nodal officer of universities. An image-based portal was set up to detect fraudulent applications, a process that’s being monitored at the highest level even today.
For the session 2016–17, the total number of online registrations shot up 44 percent to over 1.1 crore, as compared to nearly 81 lakh a year ago. The number of applications submitted were about 74 lakh as against 66 lakh during the session 2015–16, while the total number of records forwarded by DIOS and the higher education officers stood at 64.6 lakh in 2016–17 compared to 54.72 lakh the previous year. Finally, more than 45 lakh students were benefited in 2016–17, which was nearly double than last year’s 25 lakh beneficiaries. Saksham is integrated with UP government’s Department of Treasuries, PFMS and banks to enable direct transfer of scholarship to students while minimizing misuse.
Billed as the “project of hope” for weaker sections, the program’s objective is not to generate revenue, but to save public money through proper utilization and by minimizing leakages.
The program has even improved the state’s carbon credit ratings while saving approximately 30 million pages per year, in the forms of copies of application forms, photo copies of documents and printouts necessary for keeping records at district levels.