MERIT cum MEANS: a matter of ethics

IITs welcome students from all backgrounds. There are students who live in mansions and ride fancy cars but at the other end of the spectrum, there are students who cannot afford the fees. Since the latter are equally eligible for IIT education, the Ministry of Human Resource Development and the institute itself have instituted various scholarships. The most popular perhaps is the Merit-cum-means or MCM scholarship. It is given to assist students from lesser backgrounds.

Prof. Alok Goyal, Convener, Scholarship Committee says, “Till 2009, the income cap for MCM eligibility was 2 lakhs and the maximum number of scholarships that could be given was 25% of the batch. There were more scholarships available than the number of students below the income cap. So, everyone who applied got the scholarship. This was open only to first year students. The income limit was increased last year to 4.5 lakhs keeping the maximum number of scholarships same. As a result, more students were eligible for MCM and there were scholarships available. So, it was opened up for seniors as well.”

It has been observed that students from affluent backgrounds also enjoy the benefits of MCM. On being asked if students forge documents to get a scholarship, Prof. Alok Goyal said, “We ask for Form 16 which is the proof of Income Tax or an Affidavit declaring one’s parents income. It would be sad if students indulge in such malpractices to gain a monetary advantage. The aim of MCM is to help students from poor backgrounds. We even allow for a document signed by a village Tehsildar as proof of income. We would not like to look at students, who are asking for help, as fraudsters. The students who deserve to get a scholarship do get it.”

Merit-cum-Means scholarship is awarded @ Rs. 1000/- per month with benefit of free tuition fee (Rs. 25,000/- per semester). In an ideal situation, everyone who needs a scholarship would receive one. But due to the 25% limit and the additional constraint of dodgy applications, some might miss out. To this Prof. Alok Goyal said, “If we feel that a deserving student is missing out then additional funds may be released to accommodate him. He should approach us.” But ideally this shouldn’t be necessary.

The MCM scholarship scheme is a very noble initiative which has consistently helped thousands of bright students who are not economically well endowed. A factor in the success of the scheme is also the hassle free and lenient procedure of income verification. Sadly, there have been cases of gross misuse of the latitude awarded to the students in terms of checks imposed on their income proofs, due to which a lot of genuine cases have suffered. Not only does this misuse deprive the truly deserving student from availing of what is his right, but it also puts the existence of this entire program in jeopardy. The institute and the government anyway subsidises our education to a great extent and we don’t need to unjustly milk the system further when we are in a position to pay, specially at the behest of someone else. We appeal to the good sense and consciousness of the defaulters, if any, and to the student community in general not to indulge in such practices. We owe this to common decency, if nothing else.