India's National Overseas Scholarship: an Opportunity for the Marginalized to Dream Big

By Sarita Brara

New Delhi, June 11, 2012 (Washington Bangla Radio /  PIB India) Could a small farmer belonging to scheduled caste in a backward village in West Bengal ever dream that one day his son would be able to go abroad for higher education? Thanks to the National Overseas Scholarship scheme, his son Shamik Pally is today doing PhD in human genetics from Leister University.

To ensure that economic and social status does not come in the way of fulfilling the dreams of the students who have the merit and ability, the Centre has initiated several scholarships, including the National Scholarship Scheme. Today many selected students are pursuing their ambitions doing Masters and PhDs at prestigious universities abroad. Ravindra Kumar and Sunil R Vaidya are among them.

Born in Nanfar Bazar village in Saran district of Bihar, Ravindra Kumar’s grandfather was from Pasi community of toddy sellers. His father was a simple bus conductor when Ravindra was born. Later he moved to a job in Patna where Ravindra got a chance to go to a middle school and later topped in high school. He did his higher secondary education from Science College, Patna, Bihar and then Masters in Civil Engineering from IIT Roorkee. After that Ravindra applied for National Overseas Fellowship and got selected. Though he got admission in the top most Imperial college London, he chose to go to Edinburgh Napier University.

Today Ravindra Kumar is a senior scientist with Central Road Research Institute, New Delhi. He says that National Overseas Scholarship is a wonderful scheme that provides exposure and opportunities that a person born in a poor family belonging to scheduled caste could not have imagined.

Another Awardee Sunil R Vaidya is from Ambajogai Taluka of Beed District of Maharashtra State. His father was primary school teacher but lost his job. Sunil says that as a result, his family had to go through a lot of hardship for more than ten years before his father got back his job. Sunil’s mother had no option but do manual labour to take care of the seven children in the family. With great difficulty Sunil and his two brothers managed to get education. Today Sunil Vaidya is serving as Scientist-D and Measles Group Leader at National Institute of Virology in Pune. Sunil who did his Masters in Microbiology, was awarded the National Overseas Scholarship during 2007-2011. He studied for his PhD at internationally reputed Health Protection Agency (HPA) in London which is affiliated research centre to the Open University, Milton Keynes, UK. Vaidya has submitted his PhD thesis and is awaiting its outcome. His area of research is Virus diseases of public health importance like measles, mumps, and rubella and hepatitis viruses. Sunil says that he would like to dedicate his life doing research in public health virology.

National Overseas Scholarship

The National Overseas Scholarship scheme was initiated in the year 2002. Under the scheme financial assistance is provided to the selected candidates for pursuing Master level courses and PhD abroad in the specified fields of study in Engineering, Management, Pure Sciences, Agricultural Science, and Medicine. Thirty scholarships are awarded every year under the scheme. Twenty seven of them are for students belonging to scheduled castes, two for denotified, nomadic and semi nomadic tribes and one for landless agricultural labourers and traditional artisans.

To encourage women candidates, 30 per cent of the awards for each year are earmarked for women candidates. However, in case adequate number of women candidates are not available as per the stipulations of the Scheme or found unsuitable for selection by the Selection Committee, then the unutilized slots are utilized by selecting suitable male candidates.

Students who get admission in Universities in the United States under this National Overseas scheme are paid 14,000 Dollars annually as maintenance allowance and 9,000 Pounds for those who get admission in universities in UK. Apart from fares from their home town to the destination of their study, an annual contingency allowance is also paid by the Government. This contingency allowance is for books, essential apparatus, study tour, travel cost for attending subject related conferences, workshops etc or typing and binding of thesis etc. The contingency amount is 1375 dollars a year for students in USA and 1000 pounds per annum for students studying in UK. The candidates are also provided journey allowance and given equipment allowance.

The necessary qualification for doing Masters and PhD from abroad under this scholarship is First class or 60 per cent marks or equivalent grade in relevant bachelors’ and Masters’ Degrees respectively. The scholarship for PhD course is for four years while for Masters in the specified field is three years. The candidates who apply for the scholarship are chosen by a selection committee. The selected candidates are required to obtain admission and join only an accredited university or institution abroad within three years after their selection. Only those candidates are eligible whose total income from all sources or that of his/her parents/guardians does not exceed 25,000 rupees a month. Only one child in a family can get this one time award Also the beneficiary of this scholarship on return to India has to remain in the country for at least five years and is also required to serve the Government, if he or she continues to be in Government service after return to India, as one was before going abroad with award under the Scheme.

Effort is also made to get the feedback while the selected candidates are studying abroad. The Indian Missions abroad have to obtain six monthly progress reports from the university or institution where the awardee is pursuing his or her studies. This is to prevent the misuse of this scheme under which lakhs of rupees are spent every year on each of the selected students.

An Awardee of this scholarship scheme, Amit Kumar is pursuing his studies in the University of Reading, considered one among the top ten research oriented universities in the world. Amit had the courage not only to dream big but has the determination to realize his ambition. He wants to do something that would benefit the humanity and bring glory to his country. Amit is trying to design and develop nano anti-cancer drug. Another awardee from Bhopal is working to develop a new polymer to help in the treatment of several diseases from Nottingham University.

The success stories of this ambitious scholarship scheme of the Government have shown that given the right opportunity and necessary assistance, nothing can stop the young generation belonging to the marginalized sections of society to set their ambitions high, achieve them and serve their country.

- PIB Features

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