KOCHI: Refuting allegations of restricting the career prospects of tribal communities, Minister for Welfare of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes K Radhakrishnan said the government has sponsored 58 students belonging to the Scheduled community to pursue higher studies in foreign universities this year.
“I had introduced the scheme in 1996. Only 25 students got the opportunity for foreign studies during the past 25 years while we sponsored 58 students this year. The department has also sponsored seven students belonging to the Scheduled community for pilot training at the Rajiv Gandhi Academy for Aviation Technology this year. Steps have been taken to sponsor one student each from Attappadi and Wayanad for pilot training this year, he said.
Among the 58 students selected for foreign education, 10 belong to the Scheduled Tribes. The government provides Rs 25 lakh for a student to pursue post-graduate courses not available in India in foreign universities.
Students who have passed graduation with 55 percent marks and are below 35 years are eligible for the sponsorship. This year 70 percent of the students who were selected for foreign studies were women, said an officer in the ST welfare department.
The government has launched a scheme called ‘wings’ to sponsor students belonging to the Scheduled communities for pilot training under which 7 have been selected this year. The government will provide 24 lakh for each student to pursue pilot training.
Another scheme is to provide financial assistance for 50 students belonging to primitive tribes pursuing Civil Service coaching in nationally accredited institutes. The students will be selected from vulnerable communities in Idukki, Wayanad and Attappadi, said the officer.
Meanwhile, Adivasi Aikya Vedi and All Kerala Scheduled Tribe Promotors’ Collective had alleged that the government was trying to retrench 1,000 of the 1,182 tribal promoters in the state by restricting the age limit to 35 years. “We will launch a statewide agitation against retrenching the tribal promoters. The government is restricting the career prospects of tribal youths to the posts of ST promoter and tribal watcher. They want us to continue as agricultural workers. There are 1,200 tribal youths in Wayanad alone who are jobless even after completing graduation. The government should conduct a special recruitment drive for ST community,” said tribal activist Chitra Nilambur.
“I had introduced the scheme for appointment of Scheduled Tribe youths who have studied up to Class VIII as ST promoters in 1996. The appointment is only for one year and the aim is to utilise their service to improve basic amenities in the tribal hamlets. Meanwhile we give training to the selected youths to pursue their studies and explore career possibilities,” the minister told TNIE.
The minister said that the service of ST promoters appointed two years ago was extended due to Covid. “Most of the ST promoters end up as domestic helpers of the forest officers. They don’t even visit the hamlets. The government had set a target to enroll 2,000 children in the Model Residential Schools. The ST promoters did not help to enroll the students. Later, we held a campaign and got 1,600 students enrolled.” he said.