“All our efforts and aspirations for a better future have failed,” said Anjali Saste, a student of the Madhya Pradesh government’s ambitious programme to hand out Bachelor’s of Social Work degrees to young students across the state, which was started in 2014. With the fall of BJP government, it has become clear to students like Anjali that they were nothing but scapegoats for the promotion of the Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led government and agents for the collection of an unfathomable amount of demographic data of families living across the state.
Speaking to NewsClick, Prakash Kumar, currently working with students under the Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan (JADS) explained, “The BJP government through the Jan Abhiyan Parishad, which is backed by the RSS and VHP, with the Chief Minister as its president had announced the ambitious project back in 2014. The students, who were roped in for the programme, were largely tribal students living in remote parts of the state. The number of students is unclear as the project was running at the block level, with thousands recruited from a single district.” A former student Harsingh from Badwani explained, “We were told that we will get a Bachelor’s degree at the end of three years. Initially, the government lured us saying that we will get a transportation allowance to attend classes on the weekend and we were required to collect data throughout the week.”
The classes for the programme were held on Sundays in the Panchayat premises. They were initially given an allowance of Rs. 100 and also provided with tablets worth Rs. 12,000, out of which Rs. 3,000 were paid by the students themselves with a promise of being returned by the government after a reimbursement application. Harsingh added, “With the fall of the BJP government neither did we get our degrees as promised, nor did we get the Rs 3,000. The money we had spent on transportation and all our efforts on the ground for collecting the data have led to no results but have only helped the state government.”
When NewsClick contacted Jan Abhiyan Parishad to know about the status of the programme, one of the officers said, “All our programmes have been discontinued by the senior management and we have no idea as to why this has been done.”
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With the students left in the lurch, many on the ground alleged that the programme was oriented towards using students to collect demographic data and to use them for the promotion of government programmes. Prakash Kumar said, “The programme was primarily oriented towards brainwashing the tribal students and using the data collected for electoral manipulation. With thousands of students enrolled in the programme, over 500 hundred families were surveyed. The scale of data collection is huge. The students were also asked to attend rallies of BJP leaders and promote the schemes of the government.”
Ever since the Congress has come to power in the state under the leadership of Kamal Nath, the government has stayed absolutely mum on the scheme, let alone supporting the students who are facing unemployment crisis in the state.
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