MUMBAI: Dalit leader Prakash Ambedkar has come out in support of students of the city-based Tata Institute Of Social Sciences (TISS), who have been protesting against the withdrawal of financial aid provided to them.
Ambedkar demanded that the Maharashtra government release funds for the distribution of scholarships to students across the state, and said the issue will also be raised in the ongoing session of the Legislature.
A section of students has been on strike since February 21 after the TISS administration asked many of them, who have been chosen for government scholarships but are yet to get the money, to clear their dues related to tuitions, dining and hostel fees.
The students of the research institute have also been protesting against the withdrawal of financial aid provided to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (SC/ST) scholars.
On March 5, the TISS students' union announced its decision to end the strike, but a section of students continued with the agitation.
"The fight for educational rights has been going on since long, but it is worth appreciating that you people (students) have been fighting not only for your own rights but for the upcoming generations too," Ambedkar said addressing the agitating students on the TISS campus yesterday.
The situation at colleges in small towns is even worse where students have been not paid scholarships for more than three years, the Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh chief said.
This has led to several students discontinuing their studies, he added.
Ambedkar also criticised a recent Government Resolution, according to which the state will only fund 30 per cent of scholarships of the OBCs (other backward classes).
"We have decided to raise this issue by taking out processions before the social justice departments in every district," said the former MP and grandson of B R Ambedkar.
TISS students' union general secretary Fahad Ahmed said they were trying to hold talks with the institute's administration to resolve the issue.
He threatened that students may even go on a hunger strike if their demands were not met.
The union's charter of demands include the rollback of the notification asking students from the 2016-18 and 2017-19 batches eligible for the Post-Matric Scholarships to pay their dues and the scrapping of a new rule which stipulates that these students pay their fees upfront.
Asked about the students' agitation, P K Shahjahan, the dean, students affairs, TISS, said an empowered committee of the institute will look into the matter and meet later during the day, and he is hopeful for a positive outcome.
The institute had earlier claimed that despite the agitation, admissions and examinations were continuing, as per the regular, schedule on all its campuses.
The TISS had in a statement said that it was also financially impacted by these dues.